24 08 2015

When I was in middle school, Will Smith was the man.  Any conversation about movies seemed to inevitably drift towards his spotless record (most of us were too young to remember 1999’s “Wild Wild West”) at the box office and in quality.  His named practically guaranteed a fun ride.

Fast forward to today, where Smith is no longer the summer staple or inherently bankable star he once was.  Since 2008, he has only three non-cameo film roles: “Men in Black III” (admittedly, not terrible), “After Earth” (which I dutifully avoided like the plague), and now, “Focus.”  For someone who so seldom works these days, it seems unfathomable that this was the best Will Smith could do for a rare starring vehicle.

Writer/director duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s conman film has so little taste and flavor that it really needed Smith to bring his A-game.  But never has he appeared so off his game.  As Nicky, an aging pro in the field, Smith seems tired.  Not weary or exasperated like Paul Newman in similarly themed “The Sting.”  Just plain exhausted and out of gas.  His flair and charisma are completely missing in action.

The movie does not even boast any particularly exciting heist scenes or elaborately planned schemes that could help overcome this deficit.  All it really offers to offset Will Smith’s lusterless performance is Margot Robbie, who gets the chance to show that she has more to offer than the sex appeal and histrionics she was reduced to in “The Wolf of Wall Street.”  The movie is too boring to really make a definitive statement as to whether she is the real deal, but as Jess, she did make the difference between me turning off the film and seeing it through to a rather humdrum conclusion.  C2stars



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