A very odd blend of caper action, dark drama and romantic comedy, this slickly made con-artist romp never quite finds its stride. There's a merciful vein of sharp wit in the script, thanks to writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love) and a spiky performance from Margot Robbie. But Will Smith's presence leaves everything feeling rather tame, compromising his character by making him a nice-guy crook rather than the unpredictable black-comedy protagonist he really should have been.
It opens as the wide-eyed Jess (Robbie) approaches veteran grifter Nicky (Smith) about learning the art of the con. She follows him to New Orleans for some major pickpocketing and double-crossing in the run-up to a big football championship, but Nicky unceremoniously dumps her afterwards. Three years later, they meet again in Buenos Aires, where both appear to be running scams centred around the Formula One team owned by Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), who's never far from his right-hand goon (Gerald McRaney). With help from his old pal Farhad (Adrian Martinez), Nicky sets out to run his sting. But Jess is a distraction, and the stakes are too high for him to take his eye off the game.
While it's one of the running gags, Nicky's soft centre is a serious problem here, making the movie feel like a vanity project for Smith, who seems far too determined to be sympathetic. (Ficarra and Requa know how to make an anti-hero likeable: see Bad Santa.) Instead, Smith is a jarring combination of beefy physicality, fast-talking thievery and squidgy emotions. Robbie is able to more effectively merge Jess' gung-ho personality with her gleeful criminality, but when they're both together on-screen it's impossible not to feel like everything about the characters' relationship is a big con. So we wait for the script to reveal its clever twists and turns. But they're surprisingly few and oddly inconsequential.
Continue reading: Focus Review
Rodrigo Santoro - A variety of stars were photographed as they attended the World Premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' new film "Focus." The premiere was held at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood, California, United States - Wednesday 25th February 2015
While sitting at the bar of a hotel lobby one night, a man catches a glimpse of an attractive young woman and goes over to introduce himself. That man is Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) and that woman is Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie). When the two go back to Barrett's room for the night, a gunman attacks Spurgeon, demanding all of his money. The problem is, Spurgeon is a seasoned conman, and is able to quickly sniff out a scam when it arises. After imparting both Barrett and her assailant with some lessons in the art of conning, Spurgeon leaves. Three years later, Spurgeon and Barrett will be reunited in a dangerous game of deception and theft.
Nicky Spurgeon is a genius when it comes to his work as a con man in the criminal underworld but decides to take on an intern in the form of the beautiful, blonde, aspiring criminal Jess Barrett. However, things soon get a little complicated when a spark ignites between them and Nicky is forced to let her go rather than jeopardise their professional circumstances. They are reunited some years later, however, in Buenos Aires with Jess having gone on to perfect the art of elusive scamming as a grade A femme fatale for another con man and Nicky's interest soon re-awakens when he sees her in action. Unfortunately, this time they are working against each other in their most dangerous operation yet and Nicky is torn between wanting to protect her and wanting to do the right thing.
Continue: Focus - Teaser Trailer
After the snappy, clever 2011 original, this sequel feels rather lazy by comparison: it's still visually colourful and sometimes witty, but the overcrowded story is all over the place, mixing wacky slapstick and corny satire with a political message. And none of this is edgy enough to make it memorable, except perhaps the addition of one new character, a deranged poisonous frog with delusions of romance, voiced by the riotously operatic Kristin Chenoweth.
At the centre again are the rare blue macaws Blu and Jewel (Jesse Eisenberg and Anne Hathaway), who now have three feisty kids at their bird sanctuary in Rio de Janeiro. Then their human keepers Tulio and Linda (Rodrigo Santoro and Leslie Mann) spot another blue macaw deep in the Amazon, so Blu and Jewel fly off to investigate with their children and buddies (including Will.i.am and Jamie Foxx). Sure enough, this turns out to be Jewel's long-lost family, overseen by her father (Andy Garcia) and guarded by her heartthrob ex Roberto (Bruno Mars). But there's an evil logger threatening the rainforest, and Blu's old nemesis Nigel the cockatoo (Jemaine Clement) is out for revenge.
After the oddly flat prologue in Rio, the film kicks up a gear when it arrives in the jungle, where the imagery becomes far more dense and colourful, leading to some wonderfully outrageous musical numbers and raucous action sequences. The level of detail is impressive, as is the range of creatures thrown into the story. But the script never quite rises to this level of invention, once again simplistically putting the city-bird Blu in an alien natural environment, with added in-laws and ex-boyfriends. Much more fun is Nigel's interaction with his poison-frog sidekick, even if his subplot never builds any steam.
Continue reading: Rio 2 Review
Monty Trainer, William D. Talbert III, Jemaine Clement, Kristin Chenoweth, George Lopez, Rodrigo Santoro, Andy Garcia, Anne Hathaway, Carlos Saldanha and Jamie Foxx - The stars of the animated family film 'Rio 2' attend the inauguration of Miami's first-ever Walk of Fame - Miami, Florida, United States - Friday 21st March 2014