The Flick Chicks

Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

Focus | Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro, B.D. Wong | Review

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2sm The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD Judy Thorburn

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2lg The Flick Chicks movie rating for this film is BAD

 

Focus

For all it is worth, Focus features great looking people and glamorous location settings. Unfortunately, those are the only engaging elements of this romantic crime caper starring Will Smith and rising star Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street).

Smith (hoping to revive his career two years after his critical and box office failure “After Earth”, that costarred his son Jayden) plays Nicky, a master con artist, and Robbie is Jess, the femme fatale who becomes his apprentice and love interest.

The two meet in a New York City hotel bar where Jess, an amateur con, targets Nicky as her mark but finds herself outsmarted by the more seasoned professional who knows her game inside and out and had her pegged from the get go. Instead of walking away, Jess is fascinated by Nicky and decides to follow him to New Orleans where she convinces him to teach her the ropes and let her become part of his network of scammers that includes his lewd talking, portly, cohort in crime Farhad (Adrian Martinez, lending some comic relief).

 “It is a game of attention. You get their focus, you can take whatever you want,” Nicky tells Jess as he begins to show her the tricks of his trade.

Jess proves to be an outstanding protege, impressing Nicky with her slick skills as she weaves through French Quarter crowds, slyly lifting wallets without any detection. Before you know it, the pair become romantically involved.

After scoring $3 million from an uber rich, gambling addicted, Asian businessman named Liyuan (a scene stealing B.D. Wong) during a totally preposterous sequence at a Superbowl skybox, Nicky decides that love has no place in his chosen profession which demands lying, cheating and deception, and sends Jess on her way with $80,000 as her cut of the action.

Fast forward three years and into the world of Formula 1 car racing. The setting is Buenos Aires, Argentina where Nick just “happens” to run into Jess, who also “happens” to be the current girlfriend of handsome and rich Rafael Garriga ("300's" Rodrigo Santoro), a race car team owner with a secret formula that enhances his cars' performance. Rafael has hired Nicky to pretend to be a disgruntled mechanic and wants Nicky to sell a modified formula to his most fierce rival who would be willing to pay big bucks for what he believes is the real deal. Of course, Nicky has devised another version of the scam. But with Jess back in the picture, rekindling their relationship could mean losing focus on his high stakes scheme and put a wrench into what he has set into motion. Meanwhile, watching Nicky like a hawk is Rafael's bodyguard/right hand man, Owens (Gerald McRaney).

Writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love) offer up a hodge podge of a plot that depends on unlikely coincidences and contrivances that are unconvincing. Add to the mix a few double crosses, shifting alliances, and a surprising twist at the end that is hard to swallow. But then, what isn't, in this implausible scenario.

Word is that the film originally was to star Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. After they dropped out, several other actors including Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck were offered the male lead but declined. Kristen Stewart was cast, but it was reported she dropped out because of the 20+ age difference between her and newly cast 46 year old Will Smith. Several other actresses were considered to replace Stewart before the role went to Robbie, who, ironically, at 24 is just a few months younger than Stewart.  The way I see it, those actors who read the script and declined were smart enough to pass.

Robbie is easy on the eyes and the ever charming Smith is looking hunky and handsome. Yet, somehow the pair lack sizzling chemistry. I didn't buy their love connection for one minute.

Although Focus is slick and visually appealing, when all is said and done, after watching this movie about scam artists, audiences will feel that they are the ones who have been conned.

 

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