Actor BD Wong Campaigns for Hillary Clinton in Philadelphia at the Bubblefish Restaurant, Pennsylvania, United States - Thursday 13th October 2016
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
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