Release Date: 28th February 2014
Running Time: 99 minutes
Director: Tim Story
Starring: Ice Cube, Kevin Hart, Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Laurence Fishburne
Buddy cop movies are a well worn genre. Bickering, mismatched law enforcers struggle with their case and their partner before coming to a mutual respect and catching the bad guys. Now Ride Along brings the in-law buddy cop movie to the table, and it’s about as original as it sounds. Hooray.
Kevin Hart’s Ben is a security guard with ambitions to join the police and settle down with his girlfriend, Angela. However there’s a catch; Ben must win over Angela’s brother James before she’ll marry him. The only snag is that James, an angry cop played by Ice Cube at his most Cubic, hates Ben and refuses to talk to him. After Ben is accepted into the Atlanta police academy, James is forced to invite him to ride along on the job for a day. Ben sees this as an opportunity to gain James’ approval; James spies a chance to humiliate and embarrass Ben.
The problem with most buddy cop movies is that, like most rom-coms, they’re inherently formulaic. Ride Along doesn’t buck this trend and is almost completely by the numbers; beat for beat it follows the same template established in countless other films. In a genre entirely dependent on charisma and the chemistry between the two leads, Ride Along isn’t helped by characters who feel one-note and undeveloped. All we learn about James and Ben is that Ice Cube can’t trust people and Kevin Hart likes videogames and dirty talk. That’s it. Ice Cube has played angry cops in his last three films (from Rampart with Woody Harrelson, to Ride Along via 21 Jump Street) and his performance here is a routine display of his irritable snarl. Ice Cube will next be seen playing a surly police officer in 22 Jump Street later this year.
Similar films will usually pair an older, cynical cop with a crazy young maverick who won’t play by the rules; think Murtaugh and Riggs from the Lethal Weapon series. Sometimes instead of a loose cannon, the older cop is partnered with someone from a totally different cultural background, like Nolte and Murphy in 48 Hrs. In Ride Along Ice Cube is partnered with Kevin Hart, an annoying man-child with verbal diarrhea. It’s as if Danny Glover’s Murtaugh was partnered with Leo Getz – the irritating comic relief played by Joe Pesci in Lethal Weapon 2 – instead of Mel Gibson’s Riggs. As a showcase for stand-up comedian Kevin Hart it’s pretty underwhelming, unless his comedy routines consist solely of him riffing on his sex life and his gaming prowess.
Director Tim Story brings the same vibrant colour palette to this film as he did to his work on Fantastic Four and Taxi but while some of the action is fairly well staged it’s a little pedestrian at times. Like the rest of the film there’s nothing particularly new and exciting on show. While it’s solid and put together efficiently, this feels routine and workmanlike, ticking off genre tropes one by one until its conclusion. There’s nothing in here which is offensively bad, but little which is particularly good. With weak, uninspired characters and some performances delivered on autopilot, Ride Along isn’t much cop.