Friday, April 19, 2024

Falling Stars: Will Smith Seen Joining Johnny Depp in the Flop Club with “Focus”


Will Smith opens in “Focus” on Friday. Rotten Tomatoes already gives it a 50, with Todd McCarthy, dean of reviewers, panning it. So does our Leah Sydney– see below. If “Focus” fails, it follows “After Earth” and Smith’s disastrous appearance in the huge mistake called “Winter’s Tale.” No kidding, this is bad news. “Concussion” is coming at Christmas time, which may be better. But Smith is following in Johnny Depp’s footsteps, it seems.

Here’s Leah’s review:
Will Smith mega star wattage is a huge part of why his new romantic con caper will probably do well in the opening weekend. But once the word spreads that ‘Focus,’ is mostly unimpressive and predictable– with some flashes of humor and stylish, hip coolness–that will probably figure into the big picture box office gross.

Will plays Nicky, a longtime con artist who offers to tutor the novice Jess (played by the impossibly sexy Margot Robbie) after they hook up at posh Manhattan restaurant. What ensues is their quest for the big con, figuring out their relationship, Nicky trying to come to terms with his relationship with his father and on and on.

For a caper con to work it has to have mega chemistry between its stars, and this pairing falters. Since they both are consistent insincere liars, with nary a break, it’s hard to root for either of them. Perennially likeable Will gives it his talented all, as does Robbie– who proves again post “Wolf of Wall Street”– she’s an actress to watch. She is game and committed.

Adrian Martinez provides welcome comic relief as Nicky’s right hand plus size man. The always-reliable B.D. Wong gives a fun stint as a billionaire Chinese gambler and the equally solid Gerald McRaney adds to the talented ensemble.

Ultimately, ‘Focus’ is a sloppy movie. You see the same plot twists coming a mile away; the element of surprise is shot. The production looks cheap, the international locales don’t feel nearly as luxurious or swanky that a romantic con film should, even the scenes with extras look cheap and staged. The second half of the film takes place in Buenos Aires, which livens the film up, a bit. Although the film has its moments, ‘Focus’ is ultimately unsatisfying. You kind of feel that you’ve been played without the payoff. Also, you can’t help but wonder if most of the film’s budget went to Will’s salary.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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