Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Tim Story
Stars: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, John Leguizamo, Tika Sumpter, Bryan Callen, Laurence Fishburne, Bruce McGill.
This is another odd couple buddy comedy action film in the same vein as 48 Hours, the Lethal Weapon franchise, Rush Hour and Midnight Run and the like. But here the team of writers and director Tim Story (Barbershop, Fantastic Four, etc) take the formula that was tired by the end of the 80s and further drive it into the dirt with an uninspired script and some heavy handed direction.
Ben Barber (motor mouthed former stand-up comic Kevin Hart) is a fast talking security guard and X-box junkie who wants to impress the brother of his girl friend Angela (Tika Sumpter, from long running tv soap One Life To Live, etc) by going to police academy and joining the force. James Payton (former rapper Ice Cube) is a tough, lone wolf Atlanta cop whose Dirty Harry style method of cracking cases and dealing with crooks has not exactly endeared him to his boss Lt Brooks (Bruce McGill). Nor has his obsession with trying to track down an elusive weapons dealer known as Omar in an on-going investigation. Even his two partners (John Leguizamo and Bryan Callen) seem to have grown tired of the fruitless investigation.
James is overly protective of Angela and doesn’t particularly relish the thought of his sister dating Ben, whom he sees as a loser. He tries to dissuade Ben from joining the force by taking him along on a “ride along”, a 24 hour tour of duty to give him a taste of life on the mean streets of Atlanta. He asks to be given all the menial, unpopular and meaningless call outs in an effort to show Ben just how dull the job is and demonstrate how unsuited he is for police work. But the mismatched pair somehow stumble across Omar and his operations, which is when things get seriously out of hand.
But this uneven and laboured script, written by a team of four writers including Greg Coolidge (Sorority Boys, etc), television writer Jason Mantzoukas and Phil Hart and Matt Manfredi (the dire RIPD, Clash Of The Titans, etc) offers up a cliched mix of action, casual violence and doses of hit and miss humour that more often than not falls flat. The overall quality of their previous screenplays should have been warning enough of the quality of this script. The car chases and shootouts and macho rivalry between the two leads are formulaic and cliched staples of the genre, but unfortunately Ride Along fails to bring anything new or fresh to the tired genre. And the plot is rather predictable.
The script has actually been around for several years, and was originally earmarked for Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds, who may have injected more life into the formulaic material than Hart or Ice Cube. Hart is in danger of becoming the new Chris Tucker or Martin Lawrence, a gratingly unfunny and annoying motor mouthed comic actor with a shrill style of delivery. Admittedly he was reasonably effective and enjoyable in a small role in the recent Grudge Match; but then he was bouncing off veteran Alan Arkin, who has impeccable comic timing and a smart way with a snarky one-liner.
Here though he is trying to strike up some comic repartee with the dour, surly and oh so intense and permanently scowling Ice Cube, who lacks the sort of charisma and easy going attitude the material required. Ice Cube has done better work, with films like Boyz N The Hood and the first film in the Friday series, but he is also the one who killed off the XXX franchise. And there is little chemistry between the pair. Hart apparently improvised much of his dialogue here which seems to have thrown off his co-star.
And Laurence Fishburne normally has a formidable screen presence, but here he seems wasted in a fairly cliched and one dimensional role as a menacing villain. And Sumpter does what she can with a rather thankless and underwritten role.
The main premise that drives Ride Along has been done many times before, and done better. But there is no accounting for public taste, and despite the lack of quality or originality, this lame comedy/action film topped the US box office. So it seems inevitable that an unnecessary sequel is in the works.