Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, John Leguizamo
Ben Barber (Hart) is a high school security guard who thinks his success at playing computer games means he knows all about gun warfare and so has ambitions of joining the police, just like his fiancé’s (Tika Sumpter) brother, James (Ice Cube), who also has a strong dislike for Ben. Ben is desperate to prove that he can be a good cop and to James that he is worthy of marrying James’ sister and so James offers Ben a ‘ride along’ in his car for the day, intentionally attending the most pointless jobs to put Ben off joining the police. However, the day takes an unexpected turn as they both find themselves involved in a continuing investigation of James’ into a local and very dangerous arms dealer.
Without any shadow of a doubt, Ride Along is a generic buddy movie: it follows all the generic plot conventions and contains all the generic caricatures that we have all seen before in countless films. That is not necessarily a problem as it is a tried and tested template that has been used with great success in the past; Lethal Weapon, Stakeout, Midnight Run, and 48 Hrs are just a few examples of the genre at its peak. For me the problem is not taking and diligently using the concept, no matter how unoriginal that may seem, it is what you do with it. With the exception of the gender of the two leads, last year’s The Heat took the buddy movie format and followed it diligently, and though it was no masterpiece it in my view was a very entertaining and often funny film as it was made with energy and had two decent leading turns. Ride Along however offers nothing at all, and is essentially an empty waste of time that never even seems to make an attempt to justify its mere pointless existence.
As I said before, there is nothing wrong with a film embracing the fact it is a genre film, but if it is to be marketed as an action comedy then it seems a breach of the trades description act (1968) when the film contains a distinct lack of either. We are basically left to put up with spending 100 minutes with a ‘hilarious’ pairing of a character who looks as bored as we are and one who thinks screeching at the top of his voice, overacting and being occasionally racist is comedy (I will leave it to you dear reader to figure out which one is which).
I admit that Ice Cube was funny in both of the Jump Street films, but there he got to go as over the top as he liked and swear a lot, here in having to play the straight character he just seems out of his depth; with his facial expression never changing and his eyebrows rarely moving for the entire 100 painful minutes, he is a charisma free zone and is a truly awkward screen presence. Then there is Kevin Hart, he already irritated the hell out of me as a supporting character in Grudge Match, but as a joint lead made me want to throw things at the television. I admit to never have seeing Kevin Hart’s stand-up, but on the basis of his film roles where he permanently screeches, pulls silly faces and makes jokes about the misogynistic and immature name he uses to play computer games with then I never ever want to. There are also some ‘comedy’ sequences that go on for too long, admittedly the joke was boring before it started, but Hart’s deluded willingness to make the joke last as long as possible makes Ride Along a true endurance test for even the most patient of viewer.
So any film, especially a comedy, which has two leads that are irritating and certainly never engaging or likeable from the start certainly does not help itself. The other characters are there just to tick boxes; especially Tika Sumpter who is a plot device whose sole job is to look nice (that bit of accidental rhyming is more creative than anything about Ride Along) and the fact she is willingly engaged to such an irritating, computer games obsessed and occasionally misogynistic prat is suspension of belief of the highest order. Then there is Lawrence Fishburne; maybe the character he plays is supposed to be a surprise ‘revelation’ (it really isn’t) and it is obvious from his lacklustre performance that he really could not care less about this film and is happy to take the money. I just hope he uses that money to invest in a wonderful art house project, or he should feel highly ashamed of himself.
Even the ‘action’ sequences are dull, with genre films like this slick action sequences should be a given, and Tim Story’s CV suggests he can produce decent action, but the few apparent action scenes are done with no energy whatsoever. The fact we have no emotional engagement with the characters perhaps does not help, and so there is never really any sense of peril as I wanted them to get shot, but there is no creativity or energy involved in these scenes at all. Ultimately, watching Ride Along was just 100 minutes of nothing. It was essentially like staring into the abyss and so getting irritated or annoyed is almost doing the film credit it doesn’t deserve. It is a film best ignored and forgotten about, especially as there are so many vastly superior examples of just how good this formula can be on screen.
Also, for the record I am aware that Ride Along was number one at the US box office and took a genuinely staggering amount of money, and a sequel is planned for a 2016 release. I think the less said about that the better.
Ride Along is yet another example of the creativity famine in Hollywood these days; taking a tried and tested narrative and making it a true endurance test of a film that never raises a single laugh, instead just feelings of infuriation, boredom and misery.