Less than five minutes into Ride Along’s piecemeal serving of action/comedy, Ice Cube is speeding through a street side explosion after opening fire in a crowded shopping district. Afterward, he still has a job. Somehow. Because police work or something.
Not that Ride Along’s screenplay, pulled together via four writers, is predisposed to cinematic logic. Kevin Hart’s screechy Ben Barber is a chewed up Eddie Murphy spliced back together with Chris Tucker parts, allowed to continue on this shamefully inept ride along concept because police work… or something.
The film’s jumping point is that of a helpless female – destined for capture as if this wasn’t 2014 and cinema hadn’t progressed past 1985 – allowing Hart to turn from video game playing, blabbering doofus into a dominating male hero persona. See? It’s character growth.
Purposefully dopey public disturbances are meant to prove Hart’s inability to protect Cube’s sister, again with the female protecting. Assignments qualify as little more than over extended interstitial segments: Hart pleads with stereotypical bikers to leave handicap spaces, rumbles with an eight-year old for information, and tussles with a crazed loon in a grocery for honey soaked groans, none which add weight to Ride Along’s barren comedic repertoire.
A mythical villain waits behind these time wasting shenanigans, mostly to ensure audiences Ride Along does, in fact, have purpose in its miniscule 90-minute existence. James Payton’s (Cube) search for the ephemeral Omar is designed for closure and calculable story twists, again a distressing set-up for the camera to spin tirelessly around Hart shouting into the lens.
Tim Story’s on again, off again directorial capabilities (from the enjoyable Barbershop into 2004’s “oops” Taxi) spin out when faced with a vehicle fashioned to sell Hart as a lead, away from his stand-up or bit parts. Instead, Ride Along shatters and leaves the comically gifted star with cringe-inducing racial slaps, hokey sexism, and set-ups inappropriate for television animation let alone live action theatrical distribution. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Movie]
Universal distributes their unexpected commercial hit onto Blu-ray with AVC encoding, pulling together an instantly appealing digital source from the Red One. Superior clarity produces mammoth fidelity, pouncing on opportunity to display facial definition in close and continue with it into medium shots. Only the aerials of Atlanta lose their zip with a dab of softening.
Saturation is applied to push primaries and flesh tones without egregious results. Until an all blue abandoned warehouse set takes over for a third act setting, Ride Along is rich with hues. It’s an aggressive dose of modern grading sans the usual afflictions of general warmth or chills.
This is also a feature built on contrast, heavy on light sources and black levels to produce deepened imagery. Consistency carries the piece into nighttime. Ride Along maintains its stature regardless of filming conditions.
Free of noise, aliasing, or other potential hiccup, Ride Along has the gloss of a comedy twice its budget, barely veering from reference quality. At least this dud is something to look at. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]
Again, Ride Along avoids its budget by producing a powerful DTS-HD offering. From its outset, a chase sequence rumbles from vehicle engines and improbable explosions in-between bouts of gunfire or civilian panic. This opening bit of action elevates itself with a smart, natural echo to sell this open space.
Moments at a firing range deliver the same sense of place, rounds firing off into the rears with each shot. Ride Along transitions into its audio triumph (hyperbole, but stick with it), a warehouse shoot out with rounds swirling and full directional impact. Cue up another explosion which is hefty on the low-end for a surprise blast of impressive sonic punch. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]
Bonuses double up on Hart through featurettes and extended clips. Six deleted scenes do not include an alternate ending (that’s separate) or an alternate take (also separate), but a gag reel at least has some laughs. It Was a Good Day provides an obligatory 12-minute behind-the-scenes featurette without much energy. Kevin and Cube’s Wild Ride details the screen pairing.
You Gonna Learn Today is a brief bit on Hart’s set improv, with Anatomy of a Big Blast providing the disc’s bonus highlight by focusing on a controlled live explosion. An Explosive Ride zeroes in on action scenes and stunt work. Atlanta: The Character shows the challenges of the location shoot. Finally, those interested can que up a Tim Story commentary. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Extras]
Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.