The teaming of motor-mouth comic Kevin Hart and scowling rapper-turned-actor Ice Cube in “Ride Along” isn’t likely to make us forget about “Tango and Cash,” “Starsky and Hutch” or even “Turner and Hooch” on the blotter of arresting cop-buddy action comedies.
This uninspired, by-the-book effort from journeyman director Tim Story and a quartet of writers follows a routine pattern of pitting two mismatched cops together to bicker, banter and eventually bond as they muddle their way through a generic crime caper.
Ice Cube plays James, a renegade Atlanta street cop, and Hart is Ben, a mercurial mall security guard and avid video gamer who longs for a shot at becoming a real policeman. He also wants to marry James’ younger sister Angela (Tika Sumpter, a dithering damsel) and asks for big bro’s OK.
Dour James is unimpressed with this talkative runt (who he says is “about a chromosome away from being a midget”) and concedes to let Ben to ride along on a daylong shift – a la “Training Day” – to teach him a harsh lesson.
The rest of the story involves a chaotic ramble as Ice Cube glowers and grimaces and Hart mugs and natters incessantly while the two pursue a shadowy crime kingpin known only as “Omar” (Laurence Fishburne, largely wasted). A rash of awkwardly choreographed gun fights and car chases punctuate the storyline and help mask the essential flimsiness of the narrative.
Story, who previously directed Ice Cube in “Barbershop” and Hart in “Think Like a Man,” doesn’t do much to challenge either actor or expand his repertoire. Ice Cube, who’s built his acting career on a gruff Teddy Bear presence, simply grumps his way through the role. And the hot-at-the-moment Hart appears to be channeling Chris Tucker in his most frantic “Rush Hour” mode.
For the yammering, pint-sized Hart, “Ride Along” seems merely another routine lap in his fast-rising movie career. For Ice Cube, it marks a more problematic juncture. How ironic that the young firebrand rapper of N.W.A. who once so angrily vilified police brutality has morphed into an actor who blithely inhabits the role of a casually sadistic street cop.
- Dennis King
1 ½ stars
Starring: Kevin Hart, Ice Cube, Tika Sumpter, Laurence Fishburne
(Sequences of violence, sexual content and brief strong language)