Will Smith’s ‘Bad Boys 4’ Tackles Controversy with Humor

“Bad Boys: For Life,” the fourth installment in the franchise starring Will Smith as a playful cop alongside Martin Lawrence, premiered last week. But it’s not just the action scenes that are grabbing the audience’s attention.

In the film, Marcus, the cop played by Lawrence, slaps his partner to wake him up to reality—not just once, but several times throughout the nearly two-hour movie.

It’s hard not to automatically go back to March 27, 2022, when Lawrence’s hand hit Smith’s face. That night, the “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Men in Black” star slapped comedian Chris Rock during the Oscars ceremony when the host made a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada, who has alopecia—an autoimmune condition associated with hair loss.

The attempt to turn Smith’s slap into a pop joke divided opinions, especially because some films in which the actor was involved were interrupted shortly after the incident at the biggest cinema award show. “Bad Boys: For Life” was one of them.

The Daily Beast called the scenes a “tasteless joke,” while Variety labeled the cop slaps as a “pop exorcism.” “It’s punishing Smith, cruelly mocking his transgression, and, perhaps, in the process, allowing him to break free from it,” wrote critic Owen Gleiberman.

“In recent years, I have found myself forced to accept my flaws and learn to love myself a little more as an imperfect person,” Smith told a journalist during the film’s promotional tour in Spain, according to El Pais.

“Bad Boys: For Life” is Smith’s first major release after the slap at Rock and, so far, it seems to show that the actor’s career survived the 2022 Oscars. The film topped the American box office this past weekend and grossed $56 million, around $296.4 million. Worldwide, the movie closes out the weekend with nearly double, $104.6 million, $553.7 million.

Before the slap, Smith’s films were synonymous with bustling cinema theaters. “Aladdin,” the Disney live-action remake released in 2019, grossed $1 billion, around $5.55 billion, and “Bad Boys 3,” from 2020, earned $425 million, $2.24 billion.