directors: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
writers: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie and Rodrigo Santoro
released: February 27, 2015 (U.S.)
Initially I was apprehensive with how this movie would play out as it seemed to be a cheap thrill film with no heart and just enough steam to roll out the big twists. Though remarkably, it ends up having not only a couple of tricks up its sleeves, but also that heart that was previously thought to be absent of.
Nicky (Will Smith) a well known and experienced con artist finds new talent in Jess (Margot Robbie) and believes her to be an ideal match for his team of expert and talented con artists. As their cooperation develops so will a romantic connection go in hand with it. With the two of them realizing that they might truly be a perfect match for each other in skill and passion. Though in due time they will be put in a divisive position where they will have to come to find a way to balance that passion with their dangerous profession and also let go of the past baggage they carry along with them.
Con artist films have two things to get right over everything else. One is for con jobs in the film to be spectacular in nature and execution. Second for their to be an emotional depth to the films characters that films such as "Matchstick Men" and "Grifters" managed marvelously and thankfully "Focus" also does the same.
Researching a bit about the film's pre-production before hand and the possible casting choices previous to Smith and Robbie being cast. Made me quite happy that luck fell on these two than anyone else. As both were at the perfect points in their careers and ages to juxtapose the difference in their character's skill and also to have the mentor/trainee motif work and not feel weird. With Will Smith being the showoff that is swallowing more than he can chew and Robbie the new kid on the block that is still fresh but also incredibly talented.
Together they have an innate chemistry that the "Suicide Squad" film will benefit from. Because from the second these two are on screen together, you will buy completely into the fact that they might actually have a connection, a real one. Smith with his droopy, cocky and serious performance and Robbie as the seductive con artist in training who would still give it all up for love.
Overall, the film does very well in developing both characters enough to get a feel for their past and what they generally want to accomplish professionally and personally with a couple of surprises thrown into the mix. Allowing for their actions to make sense and also for the reality of their past to sink in for the future events in the film. Such as a very specific action/choice that isn't a twist, but is a plot development more courageous and special than any con artist twist a film can come up with.
Regarding the cons in the film. Most are fun and well thought out that we feel we haven't seem them before. Naturally the actors make them even better to enjoy with their performances. Especially with some of the supporting actor performances that are funny and scene stealing. Giving Smith and Robbie the much needed comedic relief that balances out the drama and romance of their story.
Furthermore, what initially made me believe that the film wasn't worth my time or anyone's for that matter. Was first Will Smith's shady track record as of late with terribly picked films and the quick "bang bang thank you ma'am" trailer of the film. That sold you the film with quick cuts of beautiful people doing cons, in order to reach that one big and final con to escape into paradise forever. Never making us really think there was an emotional edge to the whole story or even humor attached to it.
However, this is not to say that the film couldn't have done with a little bit more when it came to its third act. With the randomness of a specific meeting and in my opinion the lost opportunity of some humor with that randomness. As the choice taken was to have a big surprise/twist, that on the one hand does work, but it is what all con films rely on and climax with.
Moreover, the film feels as if it actually doesn't have a second act, which is quite mystifying. It feels as if it only has a first act with the duo first meeting up and then having some experiences together. To only immediately jump to the third act where their relationship is rekindled. Not saying It doesn't work, but because we are so subconsciously used to seeing films with the old fashioned three act structure. It makes the film feel off kilter as it jumped rather quickly to its conclusion.
The chemistry and acting ability of the lead duo lift the material of this film more than one could expect. Which is exactly what films of the past used to rely on not too long ago. Where you may have seen the story somewhere else before and maybe an even better version of it, but because they made you buy into the concept once more in a crafty fashion, getting you intertwined with the character's actions and also be dazzled by the cast's great performances. It makes the viewing of an otherwise unengaging film relaxing, entertaining and recommended.