"Simultaneously under-plotted and over-explained, Ride Along 2 meanders messily from one set-piece to the next, grasping at straws of humour along the way"
Every once in a while, there comes a movie that manages to elevate and redefine the genre of which they have become a part. Scream turned the world of slasher films inward on themselves. Die Hard reinvigorated not only the increasingly campy world of 80s action films, but the genre of action films as a whole. And the likes of Toy Story, Up and Inside Out have utterly transformed how adults view animated films.
Unfortunately, Ride Along 2 is not one of these films.
In 2014, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart starred as a mismatched pair who were forced together, bickering from one scene to the next before ultimately proving themselves to be an effective team against a group of criminals in Atlanta. Two years later, Ice Cube and Kevin Hart star as a mismatched pair that are forced together, bickering from one scene to the next before ultimately proving themselves to be an effective team against a group of criminals in Los Angeles.
To say that Ride Along 2 is treading a well-worn path would be an understatement. Not only would the majority of scenes (packed to the brim with cars, scantily-clad women, and explosions) slot seamlessly into any iteration of the Fast and the Furious franchise, but there is little to distinguish this sequel from its own opening instalment.
Opening once again in the middle of an ill-fated undercover operation, the film is quick to hit the same beats, and even jokes, as their last go around. In superior hands, this might have been the inspired continuation of intentional running gags – a la jumping the fences in Edgar Wright/Simon Pegg collaborations - but here it just feels distinctly the opposite. Given that the first installment broke certain records upon opening, it's easy to see why director Tim Story and writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi might succumb to such a temptation. However, there is the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" school of thought, and then there is just laziness and a distinct lack of imagination.
Simultaneously under-plotted and over-explained, Ride Along 2 meanders messily from one set-piece to the next, grasping at straws of humour along the way. Occasionally something will stick, such as a scene when Ben (Kevin Hart) is given a chance to interrogate a potential informant or playing a Grand Theft Auto-inspired video-game. The latter of which adds a somewhat interesting - if a little outdated - element to one of the numerous car chases.
Joining an already long list, the characters are equally familiar, almost clichéd archetypes that have previously been seen in everything from Bad Boys to Rush Hour and even Men in Black. Returning to reprise his role, Ice Cube is on typical gruff form as veteran officer James Payton, though shows signs of simply going through the motions yet no doubt enjoying a rare chance at playing a character with Batman-esque dexterity.
Similarly, Kevin Hart is, as always, all mouth and innate charm as eager-to-prove-himself, video-game obsessed rookie, Ben Barber (A.K.A Black Hammer). The majority of what few truly chucklesome moments there are in Ride Along 2 are a result of Hart's undeniable timing, passion, and rapid-fire delivery in bringing to life Ben's unabashed and reckless enthusiasm for his work and personal relationships.
Minor supporting characters flit in and out of the story, but serve as little more than cannon fodder or devices to move the plot along. Ken Jeong verges on displaying a new side of his abilities as A.J, a womanising hacker with a redemptive arc, but ultimately reverts to his usual schtick. Olivia Munn's Maya is on solid form as a competent fellow officer (displaying an early level of badassery that whets the appetite for her role as Psylock in the upcoming X-Men: Apocalypse), only to end up as little more than a sidekick and an attempt to shoe-horn in some sensual distraction and a chemistry-deficient romantic angle. And the magnetic yet bored Benjamin Bratt suffers greatly in a one-note role that is essentially a pale imitation of Breaking Bad's Gus Fring.
Fans of the first film (or anything directed by Michael Bay or starring Vin Diesel) will most likely be able to overlook the recycled nature of the sequel and find something to appreciate. All in all, however, succeeding only to waste the talents of all involved, Ride Along 2 is as stale as a packet of discarded nachos with hair on them and, as the film itself demonstrates, should only be consumed by force.