Ice Cube, Kevin Hart try to up the ante in the sequel to their buddy-cop comedy

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Ice Cube may show endless contempt for the cop partner played by Kevin Hart in the “Ride Along” movies, but off-camera the rapper-turned-actor-turned-media mogul has nothing but admiration for his comically irritating co-star.

“I respect Kevin, and I love his work,” Cube admits while promoting “Ride Along 2,” the sequel, to the 2014 action comedy hit that he also co-produced. “He comes and does things like a comic that haven’t been done. So I really respect him as an artist, because he’s always great.

Photo illustration by Kay Scanlon/LANG

Photo illustration by Kay Scanlon/LANG

“So I wanted to work with him, and I knew that we could make great movies together,” Cube added on a day when the N.W.A biopic “Straight Outta Compton,” which he was also a producer of (not to mention one the film’s subjects), earned a passel of prestigious Hollywood guild awards nominations. “What was so cool, when I met him, was that he understands that too, so he fell right into it.”

Theirs is a two-man mutual admiration crew.

“We’re good friends on and off screen,” Hart, whose film career has been flying since the first “Ride Along,” confirms. “I don’t think you get to this level of chemistry without having some kind of relationship. We both have a mutual respect for one another and for what we’re doing. Right now, it’s just about continuing to up the ante, and we’ve done that. We both care about our careers, we care about the projects that we’re taking on. It’s always about setting the tone for us to come back and do it better.”

Both men describe the sequel as bigger and better than the first film, with more action added. As his wedding to the lovely Angela Payton (Tika Sumpter) looms, Hart’s rookie Atlanta policeman Ben Barber accompanies grouchy detective and reluctant future brother-in-law James Payton (Cube) to Miami to take down a drug dealer who’s branching out to their city.

A lot, of course, goes wrong in Florida. Much to James’ disgust, but to Hart’s delight.

“In this movie I do all of my own stunts,” the comedian declares. “A lot of people probably won’t believe it, but I parallel parked that car. Several times!

“There are some scenes where I jump over the hood of the car,” he continues. “My whole chase scene was me. I went through walls, busting doors. … You know, I’m really the 2016 version of Tom Cruise, OK? If you’d have put a plane in this movie, I would’ve jumped on the plane and hung off the wing, because that’s the kind of stuff that I do.”

(L to R) KEVIN HART as Ben, KEN JEONG as AJ and ICE CUBE as James star in "Ride Along 2," the sequel to the blockbuster action-comedy that gave us the year's most popular comedy duo. Photo Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert - Universal Studios

(L to R) KEVIN HART as Ben, KEN JEONG as AJ and ICE CUBE as James star in “Ride Along 2,” the sequel to the blockbuster action-comedy that gave us the year’s most popular comedy duo. Photo Credit: Quantrell D. Colbert – Universal Studios

“We wanted to have more action in the second one, because we knew that our comedy was going to work,” Cube calculates. “We knew that we could get people to laugh, but people really want to see cool action, be on the ride and have fun, too. We thought maybe we could go more global with the movies; we know that Hollywood measures its success on the global market. It’s been a hard but good fight to get our movies even sold global, and Universal has really stepped up with that.”

African-American-led films often struggle to find audiences outside of the U.S. The first “Ride Along” grossed almost $140 million in North America, but just an additional $19.5 million overseas. “Compton,” which Universal Studios also released, is at $161 million domestic and $39 million international.

Considering what Cube, who was played by his son O’Shea Jackson Jr., went through with police in that music bio, the irony is not lost on him that he plays a cop in one of his biggest film franchises.

“It’s weird that Hollywood wants to make so many cop stories; that’s what’s weird,” Cube says when asked if it feels strange to play one. “Y’know, you try to make a story about a paramedic and everybody’d say, ‘Hell no. Let’s make him a cop!’ I guess Hollywood wants to see cops as the real-life superheroes of our world.

“So it is ironic, in a way,” the South Central-raised San Fernando Valley resident adds. “It would be more if I was a real cop! But playing a cop in the movies is like when I was a kid. We used to play cops and robbers, and sometimes I used be the cop (laughs). So, it’s cool.”

Hart plays the straight man in his next reluctant buddy comedy, “Central Intelligence,” with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson handling the wacky stuff. His distinctive voice will be heard in the upcoming animated movies “Captain Underpants” and “The Secret Life of Pets.” And, as always, he’s got more irons in the fire.

“You constantly want to come back and give your audience something that they not only wanted but that they didn’t expect,” Hart figures. “That’s why you see me so far across the board. That’s why you see me now taking on this health and physical fitness realm, that’s why you see me jumping on the animation movies, that’s why you see me still in television, comedy and also stand-up tours at the same time.

“The terms for entertainers should all go under one word: businessman. It’s called show business, so you’ve got to know the business aspect of it and I think I do; I grasp it very well.”

Respect from one’s business peers is also nice, and Cube is basking in it.

“We’ve been on cloud nine since the movie dropped,” he says of “Compton.” “When you realize what you go through and you have a movie that’s good enough to get in the nominations race, it’s just great to be on this level. With a movie like this, it just does so much for hip-hop; it does so much for the legacy of N.W.A, and it does so much for films like this. It’s hard to get studios to spend $30 million on this kind of movie. So it’s just great on all levels that everyone’s being rewarded for taking a chance.”

Story by Bob Strauss, bob.strauss@langnews.com

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