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‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ Might Be The CPR Will Smith’s Career Needs

‘Bad Boys: Ride or Die’ Might Be The CPR Will Smith’s Career Needs

“Bad Boys: Ride or Die” might actually be the CPR Will Smith’s career needs. The fourth installment in Sony’s buddy cop comedy series, starring Smith and Martin Lawrence, reportedly opened with an impressive $56 million in US theaters and pulled in a worldwide total of $104.6 million—and honestly, it is a much-needed turnout. Aside from the fact that Smith’s career has been hanging by a thread since the infamous Oscars slap, the summer box office has been suffering significant regress even before the pandemic. Undeniably, this is good news for both of them.

Smith became Hollywood’s outcast when he slapped Chris Rock on stage at the Academy Awards in 2022. After Rock made a joke about the shaved head of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, the actor marched onstage and slapped him in the face before returning to his seat, shouting “Keep my wife’s name out your f—king mouth!” The Academy responded by banning him from attending any Oscars events for 10 years. He has held himself accountable and issued a number of apologies. Then again, someone as image-conscious as Smith didn’t need a soothsayer to let him know what was coming his way. The immediate impact was felt on his career.

A case of mid-life crisis?

Following ‘the slap,’ as the incident is popularly dubbed, Netflix halted production on “Fast and Loose,” a thriller starring the father-of-three. “Everyone was waiting to see who would blink first,” a studio executive told Variety. “Netflix definitely wasn’t willing to be the first studio to get back into business with Will.” Evidently, this aligns with prevailing wisdom that nobody wants to get into business with a tarnished star—or, do they?

In December 2022, Apple TV+ released Smith’s slave thriller Emancipation,” but it was met with little fanfare and unfavorable reviews. This didn’t stop Sony from teaming up with him on “Bad Boys: Ride or Die,” and it was worth it. “Ride or Die,” which reportedly cost an estimated $100 million to make (excluding marketing), received tons of positive reviews. The movie also earned an A- CinemaScore, which surprised even Hollywood—given its frustrating run at the summer box office. “Very few action comedies get to four episodes—the jokes start to run thin and the stories get repetitive—but when they do, they hold up well,” David A. Gross of movie consulting firm Franchise Entertainment Research told Variety. “Bad Boys is in elite company, and the series has room to run.”

Bad Boys 4: A career lifeline

Photo: @badboys/Instagram

The success of “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” comes as a welcome relief after a string of disappointing releases, such as “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” and “The Fall Guy,” which both failed to resonate with audiences despite positive reviews. By extension, the success also marks a significant win for the movie industry, which has seen ticket sales decline by 26% from last year and more than 40% below pre-pandemic levels. “Bad Boys: Ride or Die” found a niche audience, particularly among Black moviegoers, who accounted for the largest demographic, making up 44% of ticket buyers.

The movie follows the success of the previous installment in the franchise “Bad Boys for Life,” which opened to $62 million domestically in 2020. At the time, it became the highest-grossing movie release in 2020, making $426.5 million at the worldwide box office.

Smith is also set to work on the sequel to another hit, 2007’s “I Am Legend,” alongside Michael B. Jordan. “It doesn’t have a release date or anything like that,” Jordan told People magazine in an interview. “I’m not sure exactly where we’re going to be filming that one, but I’m really excited to get in front of the camera with [Smith].”

Beyond its cinematic thrill, the performance of “Ride or Die” is a big deal for Smith’s career, as it marks his first major test of public perception. The film’s director, Adil El Arbi, has said that the movie is a “hectic” and “grungy” comeback for the Academy Awards winner, which might be exactly what he needs to move past the controversy surrounding his actions at the 2022 Oscars.

Whether this translates to a complete career resuscitation depends on his future choices and projects. But one thing’s for sure: Smith wants to redeem his public image and tap into Hollywood’s good graces.

Featured image: @badboys/Instagram

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