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Bad boys 5

INTERVIEW: Will Smith and Martin Lawrence’s Bad Boys ‘Spiritual Awakening’

Four years since we last saw Miami narcotics detectives Mike Lowrey and Marcus Burnett, the Bad Boys are back. Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth instalment in the hit action-comedy franchise, which dates back to 1995, officially hit cinemas on June 6, bursting onto screens with the same dazzling high-octane sequences that transformed the original into a generational phenomenon.

The shootouts are spectacular, the car chases exhilarating, and the laughs come thick and fast, but Bad Boys: Ride or Die feels inherently different from its three predecessors. Stars Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back on the beat as the titular detectives, battle-scarred from years on the force and struggling with grief, anxiety and mental health. Speaking with Man of Many ahead of the film’s global premiere, the two screen legends described the refreshingly honest departure from the traditional action formula as incredibly powerful.

“The two ideas in this film that were really powerful, but delicate statements that I’m proud of: the idea of Mike Lowrey having the panic attacks and Marcus’ character having a spiritual awakening,” star Will Smith tells Man of Many. “Those two ideas were the gentle nods to kind of a collective, evolving consciousness that’s happening. We wanted to be able to keep the nostalgic flavour to keep it a popcorn movie all the way, summer fun, but it’s gourmet popcorn. It’s popcorn, but a little gourmet on it.”

As Smith and Lawrence reveal, Mike and Marcus’ battles with mental health and grief is a cornerstone of the new film, allowing viewers to dive deeper into the iconic characters than ever before. The deeply personal journey is approached in a fashion that feels natural, human and entirely necessary. Famously, Smith refused to do the movie unless the script was right and elements like this are better off for it. As he explains, removing the mask of masculinity was a conscious decision that ultimately drove the message home.

“I think that’s one of the things that is fun and interesting about Bad Boys, even the irony of the title,” he says. “There’s a broadness to the spectrum of the definition of a bad boy. Our characters say they love each other.”

“But we’re like that in real life. We tell each other we love each other,” Lawrence adds. “Ain’t nothing wrong with love.”

Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in the original 'Bad Boys' (1995) | Image: Sony Pictures Releasing
Martin Lawrence and Will Smith in the original ‘Bad Boys’ (1995) | Image: Sony Pictures Releasing

Capturing the magic of a blockbuster film more than 20 years after the original premiered is no easy task, just ask the teams behind Zoolander 2 and Dumb and Dumber To, but this film doesn’t reduce itself to tired tropes. We meet Marcus and Mike at an interesting junction in their policing careers, now veterans of the force working hard to clear the name of a fallen comrade. Bad Boys: Ride or Die isn’t so much a rehashing of what we’ve seen before (even if there is a very Michael Bay-inspired helicopter chase), but rather a continuation of a story that still has some surprisingly spritely legs.

But within that comes a new challenge for the Bad Boys, both on-screen and in reality. When Smith and Lawrence starred in the original Bad Boys, they were just 27 and 30, respectively. Almost 30 years later, the pair are older, wiser and more in tune with their bodies. As they revealed, the training for this instalment was far more considered than previous iterations.

“There’s tons of differences,” Smith said. “I literally tore a ligament in my foot, literally one jump rope. We had a scene where I was supposed to be jumping rope. When I tell you literally one, I turned the rope and did one jump and tore my heel. That never happens in your 20s. You got to pay very close attention once you’re over 50 trying to do action scenes.”

“Pay attention to your body,” Lawrence added. “It’s talking to you. It’ll let you know your neck ain’t right. Your back ain’t right.”

Bad Boys: Ride of Die officially hit Australian cinemas on 6 June 2024. The new instalment is directed by Belgian filmmakers Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, and stars Will Smith, Martin Lawrence, Vanessa Hudgens, Alexander Ludwig, Ioan Gruffudd and Tiffany Haddish. Penning the script was Chris Bremner alongisde Smith, Jerry Bruckheimer, Chad Oman, and Doug Belgrad producing. Watch the official trailer for Bad Boys: Ride or Die below.