I live in Atlanta, so it was a short trip when I visited the set of Ride Along on December 5, 2012. A group of reporters and I went down to downtown Atlanta to watch some of the filming and talk to director Tim Story along with some of the cast. Briefly, the film stars Kevin Hart as a fast-talking aspiring police officer who must team up with his girlfriend’s brother, a hot-tempered cop (Ice Cube), to prove that he’s worthy of being her husband. Hart is one of the hottest comedians working today, and Ice Cube gave one of my favorite comic in recent memory with 21 Jump Street, so it’s a good mix, and they talked about their chemistry on-set. We also spoke with director Tim Story (Barbershop) about working with his two comic leads, the script, and making a comedic version of Training Day. Yes, Training Day.
Hit the jump to read about my visit to the set. The film also stars Tika Sumpter, John Leguizamo, Bryan Callen, and Laurence Fishburne.
Before we go any further, here’s the trailer:
And here’s the official synopsis:
Kevin Hart and Ice Cube lead the lineup in Ride Along, the new film from the director and the producer of the blockbuster comedy Think Like a Man. When a fast-talking guy joins his girlfriend’s brother—a hot-tempered cop—to patrol the streets of Atlanta, he gets entangled in the officer’s latest case. Now, in order to prove that he deserves his future bride, he must survive the most insane 24 hours of his life.
For the past two years, high-school security guard Ben (Hart) has been trying to show decorated APD detective James (Cube) that he’s more than just a video-game junkie who’s unworthy of James’ sister, Angela (Tika Sumpter). When Ben finally gets accepted into the academy, he thinks he’s earned the seasoned policeman’s respect and asks for his blessing to marry Angela.
Knowing that a ride along will demonstrate if Ben has what it takes to take care of his sister, James invites him on a shift designed to scare the hell out of the trainee. But when the wild night leads them to the most notorious criminal in the city, James will find that his new partner’s rapid-fire mouth is just as dangerous as the bullets speeding at it.
John Leguizamo and Laurence Fishburne join the cast of the action-comedy directed by Tim Story. Ride Along is produced by Will Packer (Think Like a Man), alongside Ice Cube, Matt Alvarez (Barbershop) and Larry Brezner (Good Morning, Vietnam).
Now here’s the thing you need to know: I can’t really tell you specifically about what I saw. Here’s how set visits work: the publicity team coordinates with the production about what would be a good day to bring by a group of journalists. They don’t want the journalists getting in the way, and they need a day when the talent would be available to take time out of their busy schedules to do interviews. And sometimes the day that’s available is one where what you see would spoil the movie.
We spent the day sitting around a monitor listening to a scene from the climax of the movie, and all I can tell you is that like most cinematic climaxes, it looks intense. In fact, it’s shockingly intense for a comedic picture, but perhaps the intensity isn’t too surprising when you consider what Story told us about Training Day being one of the film’s inspirations:
Well one, there’s the way he shot it. We tried to shoot the movie not like a comedy. We wanted to make sure that the stakes and the look was…for lack of a better word, dramatic, but at the same time just made it look real as opposed to a poppy, colorful comedy. Inside of that we knew that we would have these two doing what they do. So when it comes to Training Day I looked at a lot of it and what’s great about it is putting somebody in your car and taking them out for the first day there’s a certain amount of things that you’re going to do that- if you and I went out on a trip I’d start by saying, “Alright, here’s what a director does.” So there’s so much of it that I kind of took from that movie from the look to moments that I know made that movie work. it was such a great movie that I have taken quite a bit from it and just, you know, kind of done my own spin on it. At the same time, we do have a totally different story, but I’ve taken some of the framing.
Story also went on to say that there’s a direct reference to Training Day, but I won’t spoil that here.
He reminds me of a young Eddie Murphy, when Eddie Murphy was sharp as a tack, and witty, and on time. And [Hart] can pull it all off. He can pull off the physical, he can pull off the intellectual, he can pull off the subtle, and it’s just cool to work with somebody so good. Not putting anything on the other guys, because Mike Epps is a genius, Witherspoon is incredible, Katt [Williams], are great comedians, even Terry Crews, who’s not a traditional comedian, but he’s just sharp in that way. But, I think this is everything you wanna see from Kevin Hart. If you’ve seen his standup, he’s a better actor than standup comedian. He can deliver on screen what he delivers on stage, and that’s just a great thing.
Ice Cube also talked about the Training Day relationship, but also pointed out Ride Along‘s similarities to classic films such as Midnight Run and What About Bob? The actor also explained his relationship working with other comedians, letting those comedians do their thing, and more. Click here for the full interview.
Finally, there was Hart, and it’s not difficult to see why his career has really taken off. Throughout the day, he swung by during interviews with other cast members and crack some jokes in between takes. But what was impressive was that he was as professional as he was funny. Here’s what he had to say about entering this new phase in his career:
HART: There’s no adjusting. I feel like whatever you’ve done in your career, good or bad, it’s nothing but preparation for the big events to come. So the reason why I am there’s no adjusting is because I’m prepared for the position that I’m in now. I’ve paid my dues, I’ve done my work, and now I’m polished to a point where putting me in this position is something that I’m ready for, so I’m not like, “Oh my God, how do I handle it? What do I do? What happens now? Where do I go from here?” You know, this is ultimate goal: to become a leading man and work with A-List actors and do projects where you’re looking at twenty to thirty million, or fifty million dollar budgets, and it’s literally about you saying to yourself, “The projects need to get better. My body of work needs to get better.” And it’s knowing what to choose for you. I’m at a point in my career now where I’m choosing projects that can further my career and can take the star level to a completely different atmosphere, so it’s more a preparation of project picking than anything. It’s not really me preparing and how do I do this, how do I adjust, it’s just picking out the right projects that are big and a great vehicle for me.
Click here for more from Hart and his really sharp and insightful answers regarding working on stage versus working in movies, comparing his work here to the work of other comedians in action movies, working with Ice Cube, and more.
Again, I wish I could tell you more, but all I can say is that Ride Along is definitely going to surprise some people, but probably still provide the comfort of what you’d expect from a pairing of Ice Cube and Kevin Hart. From our conversations with Story and Ice Cube, this movie seems to be a way of letting Hart really shine in a lead role, and that’s probably a ride worth taking.
Ride Along opens January 17, 2014.
Here’s more from my Ride Along set visit:
- Ice Cube Talks RIDE ALONG, Working with Kevin Hart, Letting Comic Actors Do Their Thing, and More
- Kevin Hart Talks RIDE ALONG, Moving to the New Phase in His Career, Comparisons to other Buddy Cop Action Comedies, and More