Saturday, May 23, 2015

FOCUS (2015)

Written & Directed: Glen Ficarra & John Requa 
Cinematography By: Xavier Gorbet 
Editor: Jan Kovac 

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robie, Adrian Martinez, Rodrigo Santoro BD Wong, Gerald McRaney, Robert Taylor, Brennan Brown

Nicky Spurgeon is an extremely accomplished con man who takes an amateur con artist, Jess, under his wing. Nicky and Jess become romantically involved, and with Nicky's profession of being a liar and a cheater for a living, he realizes that deception and love are things that don't go together. They split, only to see each other three years later... And things get messy.

This film Presents a new kind of Will Smith, A more adult and layered performance. Here he is more laid back, smooth and adult. We have seen him be like this mostly in dramas. Here this is a more serious comedy. Yet he never lets out his wild excitable side that he is known for. Here he resides more on his confidence, looks and charm. Which is exciting as we in the audience know he is capable of this, but rarely chooses to use it. We have seen bits and pieces.

Here the film solves one of the more realistic complexities it could have had where how are we to believe him as such a successful con-man where let's face it if he was working Alone most times part of the con would have to involve trying to get people to trust him when the color of his skin makes him a natural suspect at times. It would have been an interesting aspect for the film to include or explore. Though here it chooses to dazzle and entertain more. So we stay on the more fantasy side of the equation.

The film instead plays sharp with a fun style that is mysterious and humorous and at times when it seems like it is going in a more serious and dramatic direction and it becomes exciting and throws you off guard. Making it seem more suspenseful. It backs off quickly and becomes more comedic. To seemingly let the audience off the hook and breathe. Though after awhile it takes any steam out of the film that it has built up.

The direction is tight though shows it's hand before it's time in some scenes. Though visually it always stays alluring.

Quite frankly, the third act which should be exciting loses all sense of direction. As instead of focusing on the con and it's construction and how all the elements fall into place. It becomes more of a romance. Which can be allowed if the film had made it as cut throat and interesting.

While that kind of sexual tension and blossoming romance works in the first part of the film. As you wonder if it is due to a pupil-mentor type of relationship that will eventually have both of them double cross the other to teach one another a lesson. That works, but in the third act while there are double and triple crosses and even backstabbings. It never feels urgent as it becomes more Lovey Dovey and going out on a limb for love. That makes the third act feel like a lot of work went into it and many details designed for something simple and not very rewarding.

Again early on the film tries to up the steamy sexiness that comes more to a slow boil but while driven by attraction and passion. Goes more for a PG-13 approach when it seems to be heading for a hard R. Though it is rated R, The First Will Smith film to recieve that rating since BAD BOYS 2

Margot Robbie certainly is sexy and funny in her role. The problem here is while the film has hints of the movie THE STING where you are supposed to be an insider but are never quite sure what is random and what is planned. What is real and what is a con. Like that movie you have some memorable characters (especially the one played by Adrian Martinez who is the shining star if this film) but in that movie you had two movie stars duking it out to be the true star of the film and by the end realizing that neither would shine as bright without one another so by the end they are equally as big and important.  

Here, Will Smith would need a female love interest who is as famous as him or at least who has a similar presence as him. While Ms. Robie tries and gives a good performance she feels an added element rather than an equal. Maybe that works as with the characters one is a star and one is an up and comer. Just as they are in Real life In terms of talent and fame.

It doesn't help as she is also our introduction to this world. We see it mostly from her eyes until in the third act it switches to more his perspective. So while the film tries to keep us off balance. It seems confused itself.

Maybe that was why originally the film was supposed to star It was originally scheduled to star Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone but both dropped out. Ben Affleck and Kristen Stewart. Both stars, just one more established and older than the other. Later Affleck dropped out due to scheduling conflicts, then Will Smith signed onto the project then Stewart dropped out, it was rumored that it was due to the age difference between herself and Smith. Michelle Williams, Jessica Biel, Rose Byrne and Olivia Munn were considered to replace Kristen Stewart before the role went to Margot Robbie. Though with Will Smith in the role the film got more attention and put under a microscope more. Rather then let it be a disposable romance film.

Adrian Martinez steals all of his scenes and after big and small roles in many films over the years.he really gets to shine here and is hilarious in his scene stealing role.that makes you wish they had sequels just to have him in them.

Through truthfully What hinted to me that this film was doomed at the box office was, Will smith is usually King of the summer movies and while this is a different pace. It coming out at the beginning of the year says it's really bad and we need to make a quick buck. Or it is quality and as the beginning of the year is slow as this isn't Oscar quality let’s try and make some money off of this film.

It’s not as bad as it could be lead to believe, but it isn't that strong. More of a romance with some bite. That stays entertaining and engaging as long as it needs to be before flaming out.

Grade: C+

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