“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” Editors on Mixing Comedy, Action, Tender Moments—and Barry White

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence are back as Miami buddy cops Mike and Marcus, respectively, in Bad Boys: Ride or Die, the fourth installation of the franchise and the second directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah. In 2020’s Bad Boys for Life, Mike and Marcus dealt with the murder of their friend and mentor, Captain Conrad Howard (Joe Pantoliano). In Ride or Die, the pair are out to clear his good name. Working with a cartel to launder money, former Army Ranger and DEA agent James McGrath (Eric Dane) transfers millions into an account owned by the late Captain Howard, leading Mike and Marcus’s colleagues at the Miami Police Department to believe the captain was the source of a corruption scandal they were already investigating.

The search for the real culprit reunites Mike with his incarcerated son, Armando (Jacob Scipio), the only person alive who knows the face, if not the name, of the turncoat mercenary. The trio’s efforts end with Mike, Armando, and Marcus on the run, sheltering in, fleeing from, and engaging in gunfights in locations ranging from a neon-art-filled warehouse, a Chinook helicopter, and an abandoned amusement park where alligators were once and as it turns out, still are the main attraction.

Ride or Die’s action moves at a rapid, assured pace, intercut with funny and tender moments. After making them both late by stopping for snacks, Marcus survives a heart attack at Mike’s wedding to Christine (Melanie Liburd) and comes out of a coma with a serene new lease on life. Armando and Mike have a father-son breakthrough moment heavily facilitated by Marcus, who explains to the confused pair what they’re experiencing as it’s happening. And the flippant but loving banter between Mike and Marcus remains a hallmark of the franchise. We spoke with the film’s editors, Dan Lebental and Asaf Eisenberg, about getting the dual pacing of action and comedy right, incorporating drone and security camera footage, and coming up with a much-lauded set piece—a shootout set to Barry White. 

A few spoilers ahead!

How does the editing on a high-octane film like this support the energy without taking it too far?

Dan Lebental: We know from what the directors told us that they wanted it to be a breakneck speed. If there was any excess slowness to the pacing, we got rid of it.

Asaf Eisenberg: It was very clear from the beginning what the pacing would be, definitely for the action. They swim in action. We just followed their lead.

DL: It’s like boxing — stick and move, stick and move.

There’s also a lot of humor in this movie, and the relationship between Mike and Marcus can be very tender. How did the editing support their funnier, softer sides?

DL: They’ve evolved. The last one dealt with their getting older, and this one is almost like going past the old into the young again. When you mix comedy and action, you have to have a constant pace. If you go too far without one or the other, you lose it, and then it feels weird. The intervals are everything. It supplies the rhythm for continual enjoyment.

AE: There was a big scene, and we were asking if it was worth it to keep buzzing through at breakneck speed or slow down for a joke. A lot of times, the funny has to come in because the balance gets off if you don’t.

DL: And that then sets you up for the poignant moments. There’s the beautiful moment where Marcus sings to Mike. You want to ride those emotional waves. You want to be breakneck and then stop and let it ruminate a little bit.


Marcus’s near-death experience is trippy and otherworldly. Was that a very different editing process from the rest of the project?

DL: Asaf did about 193 versions of that.

AE: The near-death experience was something that Will [Smith] specifically dived very deep into. Will was very clear on what he wanted the experience to be. It was just about fine-tuning, and the fine-tuning went all the way to the end.

We get a lot of unusual footage — from a drone’s point of view or a security camera. How did you edit that to the best effect?

DL: That’s the directors’ thing. They wanted something visually exciting. Drones are a very important thing, and then there’s the Snorricam, going in and out of monitors. We’d experimented on that in the previous Bad Boys.

AE: It’s like a superpower, the way the [directors] approach a different point of view. There was one shot in the previous movie — I didn’t work on that — where they changed the angle of perspective. You don’t do that in film. And they did it. They like to give visual content a new light.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi

How did you approach editing the shootout in the dark, neon art installation?

AE: That took us a long time, and interestingly enough, it’s about the geography. The directors were very clear about wanting to understand the geography. They had one shot, which is the drone shot, which allows you to see where everything is. It allowed you to be aware of everything that’s going on.

DL: Let’s tell the truth, though. Asaf came up with the Barry White jelly beans thing. Everyone saw it and went oh my God, and then music had to clear it because it was so fun. Because of the strike, the back end of the scene, where they go outside, wasn’t shot until much later. Once we got the scene outside, we realized we’d doubled up on beats. Then, we had to reconvene closer to Asaf’s original assembly. Every scene relates to every other scene, and you don’t want to have a movie that repeats the same beats over and over again. 

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi

Spoiler alert. The military plane shootout while transporting Armando seems like it must have been a fairly involved process.

AE: One of the superpowers of Jerry Bruckheimer is a very simple statement that becomes the compass, and that is cause and effect. You don’t have to see what happens to every bullet, but everything has a trajectory that means something. That scene started a lot bigger. It had to find its way into a tight formation, where you feel the pressure and the tension of the centrifugal force. The Chinook, the helicopter that they’re on, is an unusual transport for anything. The approach is like everything else. The footage speaks for itself. As Dan calls it, what’s your picture card when you’re playing poker? What is best, lands.

DL: There were so many discussions about this scene. It was probably the scene the studio also cared about the most. One of the things we had to weigh was where it was to our advantage to not have people know what the cause and effect was—it’s just so wild, and the guys are flying off and hitting the ceiling. We had to find the balance of why that happened, or is it just the mayhem and confusion of the moment?

Dan, having worked on Bad Boys for Life, was there anything you wanted to keep or leave behind?

DL: One of the challenges was that the story related so much to the previous one in that Armando is the key to the character arc for Mike Lowrey. We had to find a way to get enough information across that the audience wasn’t lost. It required a lot of first-act restructuring because our leaders at Sony told us no recaps. So we had to kind of be in the present as we let people know.

Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi

What was a total departure in this movie?

DL: Normally, in a movie like this, you’d end with the gunfight on the beach. But we’re saying the last scene that’s not part of the coda is Mike sending his son off. That’s slightly unconventional in that we decided the most important thing was landing the emotional beat. [There’s] this sense that you don’t know what’s going to happen, but the important thing is they’ve gone through this journey.

Bad Boys: Ride or Die is in theaters now.

For more upcoming films from Sony Pictures, check out these stories:

“Paddington in Peru” Trailer Finds the Beloved Bear on an Amazonian Adventure

How “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” DP Robrecht Heyvaert on Creating the Ride of a Lifetime

“Venom: The Last Dance” Trailer Reveals Symbiote Battle Royale

Featured image: Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star in Columbia Pictures BAD BOYS: RIDE OR DIE. Photo by: Frank Masi


Susannah Edelbaum

Susannah Edelbaum's work has appeared on NPR Berlin, Fast Company, Motherboard, and the Cut, among others. She lives in Berlin, Germany.