Ride Along opens with one of the most intensely thrilling, not to mention original, set pieces of recent film. Stars Ice Cube and Kevin Hart – an APD detective and his skittery brother-in-law, respectively – are dangling, half-naked, from a wharf scaffold. Volleys of gunfire splatter around the pair as they swing, helplessly, above a raging swell. ‘Regret this ride-along now, you bitch ass cop?’ asks a droll Hart. ‘It ain’t over yet, brother,’ replies Cube, grabbing his partner by the hand and throwing them both into the waters below – moments before a catastrophic explosion razes the scaffold.
From here, we flash-back twenty-four hours to visit Hart and Cube at the beginning of the eponymous ride-along. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, a ride-along is an arrangement for a civilian to accompany police officers on a ‘cruising shift’. In this film, Ice Cube (a hard-bitten, passive-aggressive heavy), invites Hart (a clown-faced loser) to accompany him on a jaunt around the city of Atlanta. ‘See the sights, fight some crime…’ he elucidates, ‘It’s all good in the hood’.
Director Timothy Story keeps the thrilling action fast-flowing, with a series of inventive chase sequences – the characters pursue a criminal suspect through department stores, a fast food restaurant, a Mexican laundry, and two graveyards. The foot-chase culminates in a taut standoff between Cube and the gang-banger, Hart cowering behind his mother’s headstone.
However, Ride Along‘s biggest strength lies in its ability to contrive humour and one-liners from the heady violence. After garrotting a minor villain, Ice Cube spits ‘bitch went down… town!’ over and over. He repeats this mantra on a number of occasions throughout the film. Additionally, Hart’s appraisal of a bloody shooting aftermath (‘bitch-asses painted this crib!’) raises a full simper.
Perhaps the biggest problem with Ride Along is its blasé propagation of racist cultural stereotypes. The Serbian gun runners are characterised by their reluctance to eat salad, and Jewish characters are shown to be inept skiers. And for anyone with Moldovan heritage, the repeated digs at its President and regime (in a sequence where the protagonists book a drug-pushing Moldovan poet) will likely be incredibly wearing. Marian Lupu may have proved ineffective at quelling the 2009 Moldovan Civil Unrest, but that was five years ago.
Ride Along is capably plotted, trundling briskly for the most part but sprinting during its stronger moments. Director Tim Story accelerates the narrative with a lot of piled-on stakes and (figurative) time-bombs for the characters to negotiate. At one point in the film, Cube is tasked with defusing an explosive and curing his own Lupus.
Some viewers might be thrown by an implied incest and infanticide subplot, although this, for comedy reasons, is never fully fleshed out. Other markedly left-field moments include a ballroom dance of Vienna royalty, in which Hart (under the guise of Baroness Lucy Van Shlant) dances with a tuxedoed Serbian arms dealer – with Ice Cube coaching him through an earpiece. ‘He’s touching my breasts!’ whispers a flustered Hart. ‘Bitch, you better let him!’ snaps Cube. As for the verdict? Ride along with this strange yet comic actioner, and you’ll have an agreeable time.