It’s the 26th day of shooting on a 35-day schedule for the action buddy comedy Ride Along in downtown Atlanta, at a building off historic cobblestoned Marietta Street. It is the third day at this location, which is the apartment of Kevin Hart’s character Ben and his girlfriend Angela, played by Tika Sumpter (Sparkle).
Here’s the pitch: James (Ice Cube) is a seasoned cop. Ben (Kevin Hart) is aspiring to be a cop and dating Cube’s sister. Eager to impress, Hart agrees to go on a ride along with his gruff future brother-in-law to show he’s made of tough stuff, not knowing that Cube has set up a string of staged situations to sabotage him… except one is NOT staged.
If that sounds like a comedy version of Training Day and a ton of other buddy comedies that’s because it is, as Cube freely admits.
“Our movie is ten-times funnier than ‘Training Day,’” the Friday star says. “‘Training Day’ is its own thing, but we took hard from that. The funny we created out of these situations. You borrow what’s good, and we were watching ‘Midnight Run’ too. It’s a lot of comedy, and ‘What About Bob?’ stuff too ’cause Kevin is ANNOYING, you know what I mean? You want a fly swatter. He knows how to take me from being the coolest cop in the room to wanting to choke him. It’s a little bit out of all these movies but better ’cause it’s all wrapped up into one.”
“First of all, this is a modernized version of what those movies were,” Hart clarifies. “Now, in our timeframe of 2012, this type of movie is really missing. The last one that was done you gotta think about ‘Rush Hour’ and ‘Bad Boys’ and ‘Money Talks.’ Martin Lawrence did a couple like ‘Blue Streak,’ but this type of film is in demand. I think literally what me and Cube have found is a way to do it and be funny but at the same time tell a real story. Make a comedy that is a comedy. We put a real aspect of action in it, but at the end of the day it’s a comedy. The longterm goal is to franchise it and do 1, 2 and 3. I think we got something special on our hands.”
In Ride Along, Cube is trying to crack a major case involving the identity of underworld crime figure Omar. We did discover who the surprise/unbilled cameo of the distinguished thesp playing Omar is and we will not reveal who, although fans of a certain giant sci-fi franchise will be pleased.
We were also pleased to discover that one of the film’s screenwriters is none other than comedic actor Jason Mantzoukas of The Dictator and hilarious podcast “How Did This Get Made?” The man making Ride Along is none other than director Tim Story, who shepherded Fantastic Four to the screen and scored a major hit with the recent comedy Think Like a Man, which helped make a star out of Hart.
“The script that we went into production with was hilarious,” Story says. “The concept had already been around for a little bit, and once myself, Will, Kevin and Cube came on, we had an idea that could bring it more to the voice of these two actors. We took that and the guys brought in a first draft that got the film greenlit. We continued to work with them and did a comedy polish, but the script was always there.”
The scene in question for today’s shoot gets into spoiler territory, as John Leguizamo’s character has kidnapped someone close to both Cube and Hart at the bequest of Omar, and the dialogue is a buildup to a major action set piece. Essentially, “We got her, you better give us this or else.”
Hands-on producer Will Packer, who’s had the magic touch in recent years in the urban genre wheelhouse like Stomp the Yard, Takers and Think Like a Man, compares this comedy vehicle as Training Day meets Tropic Thunder. When Cube arrives on set, coffee in hand (and chill as you would imagine), Packer briefs the rap-icon-turned-actor on the logistics of the fight for the coming day, i.e. the big moments, what will be done with doubles, etc. They then take him to the cafeteria so he can rehearse in private.
As we watch the scene unfold on the monitors in video village, the bad guys are fondling the kidnap victim in question’s arms and hair. “Don’t touch me!” she yells out. They are sending a message to Cube’s character, taunting him:
LEGUIZAMO: What’re we gonna do with your sister, James?
ACTOR PLAYING OMAR: Hurry James (laughs), we don’t want to start without you. What do I want? I want my money!
SUMPTER: James there are three of them and they are armed.
After this brief bit, a new scene is set up where Omar is pacing, and Hart (or his double, rather) jumps through the window shattering the glass. Omar kicks him on the ground. “You again,” the actor cooly intones. “Hope you brought my money.”
When Kevin Hart is brought in he’s already a live wire of energy. Tim Story asks, “You know your lines, right Kev?” “F**k them lines!” Hart yells sarcastically, ” I was out partyin’, poppin’ bottles, throwin’ money at these chicks!”
As they begin shooting an intense beatdown of Hart by Omar and his cronies, the comedian yells out defiantly, “I’m high as a kite, I can’t feel none of that JAMES! JAMES!”
“His brand of comedy is broader in a lot of ways,” Cube says of Hart. “He reminds me of a young Eddie Murphy when Eddie was sharp as a tack and witty and on time, and he can pull it all off. He can pull off the physical, the intellectual, the subtle, and it’s just cool to work with somebody so good. He’s a better actor than stand-up comedian. He can deliver on-screen what he delivers on stage.”
Omar picks Hart up and tosses him against a wall. “I don’t know who you are but you better have my money in that bag, you hear?” the actor says with quiet intensity.
“I’m working with [name deleted template='galleryview']–> so it’s scary,” proclaims Hart. “I feel like Tina Turner in ‘What’s Love Got to Do With It’ right now, he’s whippin’ my ass all day. It’s fun working with an established actor who’s done so much, just to be there in that environment is huge for me. Whether its getting my ass kicked or doing lines with him it’s an opportunity.”
We’re then given a more expansive glimpse at the film’s fruitful blend of action and comedy with a rough trailer cut together by the editor in which we see a strip club shootout, a guy riding a motorcycle through a glass window, and Hart firing a shotgun on a practice range which sends him flying 10 feet backwards into a garbage bin. It’s the same mix of slapstick, character tension and thrills that made franchises like Rush Hour and Beverly Hills Cop so lucrative, and that’s clearly the whole idea.
As we chat with Tim Story, Kevin Hart barges in on the interview and begins massaging his directors back, with Story trying desperately not to crack up as he discussed what makes Ride Along so appealing to him.
“The pressure that exists is the one we put on ourselves. We believe that what we’re doing is funny to us, and in turn it has worked out that what we find funny and what we find good has found an audience. If it makes us laugh and feel good in the cutting room we’re gonna go with our instincts.”
“I love you,” Hart says as he walks off. “I love you so much.”
“Thank you, Kevin,” Story says with a huge grin.
“Working with someone like Kevin Hart is rejuvenating in a lot of ways,” said Cube. “He’s such a pro and he’s so good. And Tim is a pro. When I got him the first time I worked with him he was a rookie on ‘Barbershop.’ It’s cool to be in this position where everybody can kind of go into ‘what they do best’ mode and deliver.
Ride Along drives into theaters everywhere January 17, 2014.
Check out more new photos in the slideshow below!