Friday, 19 February 2016

Ride Along 2 (2016) - Movie Review

The plot: On the eve of his wedding, rookie cop Ben (Kevin Hart) teams up once again with his soon-to-be brother in law James (Ice Cube) on a case in Miami to track down a hacker (Ken Jeong) who could lead them to a local crime lord.

The first scene with our heroes main characters people that the plot directly involves has them infiltrating a street race to track down a drug dealer. If this sounds like a weak Fast & Furious sequel, that’s because Tyrone himself Tyrese Gibson plays James’ partner for this one scene; it is a weak Fast & Furious sequel. The distinct scent of Eau De Give No Shits only gets stronger as the film carries on, continuing the what-I-hope-stops-at-two-instalments franchise tradition of shamelessly copying buddy cop movie trends sans spice to keep things interesting. Hell, the literal first scene exposes an insider in the police force, because that particular cliché hasn’t been used and abused enough, apparently. What’s even weirder about this is that, aside from it also being shit, I don’t remember a lot of the specifics of the first film… and I still know that this film is a carbon copy of it. The opening credits with slow-mo and the single best song on the soundtrack? Check. Short Man Syndrome jokes combined with sub-par attempts to convince audiences that Kevin Hart is a gamer of any sort? Check. Sound Of Da Police? Check! Seriously, it seems like music guy Christopher Lennertz is the only person involved who is giving any amount of effort into the overall product. I’d give anything for Tyler Durden to give his own 'personal contribution' to this mess; not only would it instantly show more effort being put in but it would also remind me of a far superior watch.

Given how much I’ve gone on and on and on in previous reviews about how I just don’t like Kevin Hart’s style of comedy, I am pretty much at a loss for other things to bring up. He’s annoying, the aforementioned sizeist jokes still aren’t funny, and the script’s flip-flopping on whether or not he’s useful to the plot only serve to irritate. Beyond that, is there anyone who is worth watching? Well, I’ll put it like this: When Ken ‘Deep Wang’ Jeong is the most engaging presence in your film, something is seriously wrong. Yeah, he can be annoying at times but, honestly, the hacker who is actually really popular with people? I wouldn’t mind seeing more of that. Other than him, and Bratt giving a decent turn as the villain (although nowhere near as good as Laurence Fishburne’s from the original), no-one stands out.

So, is there anything else of note here? Well, there could have been, judging by the fragmented bits and pieces found scattered all over the place in this film. With the introduction of A.J., one of his first lines addressing the Hollywood Hacker stereotypes, it seems like this film is going to continue with the original’s theme of not judging a person’s skill through their lack of social ability, like with how Ben is a lot more competent than everyone gives him credit for. However, there is a laundry list of reasons why this doesn’t work. First off, like everything else here, this is just a repeat of last time. This means that whatever character development was made before, by either Ben or James, has to be conveniently forgotten about to make this even work. James grew less full of himself and Ben became less obnoxious? Return to factory settings like a shitty software update. Secondly, the film itself doesn’t seem to be too convinced of the notion itself, considering how much it shifts between Ben actually being useful and Ben just being an arsehole. For every scene where he is showing genuine intellect, like keeping count of an enemy’s bullets or figuring out how someone snuck a gun in past security, there’s one of him doing his typical ‘annoying = funny’ shtick that only serves to make sure that this reaches feature length. Seriously, with how thin this plot is and how long these can drag out for, this would probably barely clock in at an hour if there were removed.

Thirdly, and most importantly, is something that the film itself might be aware of, but that would probably be giving the filmmakers way too much credit. Ben Barber isn’t just weirdly inconsistent in how useful he is; he’s the only competent protagonist in the entire film. Yeah, after all my time of bashing the actor and his work, I freely admit that his character here is the smartest guy in the room. For all of James’ faux-professionalism and putting down of Ben, he ends up making more mistakes than Ben does. Hell, the one time that Ben well and truly screws up is largely A.J.’s fault for not informing him that the alligator from the trailer would be there. That kind of characterisation should lead to a plot twist that had a chance of saving the film, but no such luck. Now, to be fair, this idea could work: He’s the most amazing cop in the force, but nobody can stand to be around him… actually, come to think it, that idea has been used a lot, but I mean directly in relation to Ben’s character here. He is very detail-oriented, combined with blind luck about the bits of Call Of Duty that are genuinely realistic, and capable when given the opportunity. Problem is, he is very abrasive and, whenever the screenwriters see fit, incapable of doing anything helpful. If the film had the foresight to emphasise how good he actually is, like what should be natural after the conclusion of the last film, then maybe they could have gotten some… okay(?) comedy out of it. Instead, through inconsistencies on not just Ben but everyone’s parts together, we are stuck with the same crud they served up last time.

All in all, even for what I’ve come to expect from Hart, this is utter laziness. The characters have done the ‘classic’ sequel amnesia act so that the filmmakers can just repeat a hefty junk of the original film, the jokes still aren’t funny and whatever sensible notion the script could have made are drowned out by its abysmal execution. I still understand my place in the minority when it comes to Kevin Hart but, regardless of varying opinion on the man himself, this is garbage; don’t waste your time and/or money on it.

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