It’s a nice change to see Smith unsettled, and Robbie, who wields the upper hand for the better part of the movie, more than holds her own in every scene. The final third is obviously building to some rug-from-under-you reveal, and all I’ll say is that while I knew something was coming, it’s a twist that no one will be able to predict. Nicky and his crew can steal the tighty off your whities. I’m not asking for nirvana, such as Hitchcock’s Notorious or David O. Russell’s American Hustle, just a taste of sexy escapism. © Copyright 2020 Rolling Stone, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC. At one point, we see Nicky make the tough decision to step away from the table, as it were, by cutting things off with Jess before she gets too close. There’s not a wisp of moralising within 50 feet of this film. Usually the phrase “very visual” is critics’ code for complex camera moves or unusual angles, but it can just as well mean casting gorgeous actors in breathtaking costumes and plopping them in a great urban or interior setting. They do brisk business, gobbling up every bag and briefcase they can find. There’s also a sense of sexual candour wafting throughout. I’m a sucker for caper movies in which impossibly clever con artists do impossibly dangerous things while looking impossibly gorgeous. They are both terrific in this, especially relative newcomer Robbie who shows tremendous comedic range. Theft on a large and small scale is considered a noble art. Unfortunately, after a “three years later” card we meet up with Nicky in Buenos Aires as he starts planning a con involving a car race. Even when Focus fumbles, Robbie deals a winning hand. The rubric shows students the common elements in a film critique. History. Every movie star is a con artist of sorts, seducing audiences into forking over millions by adopting a character bigger than him- or herself. Like a Bond villainess, the power of feminine wiles is presented as a piece of equipment. The film’s action soon heads to New Orleans where a “big football game” (not the Super Bowl, though, should lawyers be watching) has the town swimming in easy money. Check. It’s a little confusing, and gets more so when characters from the past keep showing up. That is, until the twist comes and Nicky manipulates Jess into helping him pull off an enormous (and, admittedly, ludicrous) con inside the Superdome. We want to hear from you! The first paper to serve as a critique of film came out of The Optical Lantern and Cinematograph Journal, followed by the Bioscope in 1908.. Film is a relatively new form of art, in comparison to music, literature and painting which have existed since ancient times. With the rare exception of 2005’s hit “Hitch,” romance hasn’t really been Smith’s bag. Then Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) enters the scene. Together, they justify the shortcuts the filmmakers take in executing the con, which balloons from a $1 million payday to $27 million without laying the necessary groundwork for all that extra income. Gorgeous actors? Check. Ficarra and Requa have fun watching Smith’s previously cool character unravel with jealousy, slyly playing against the star’s ego-driven, level-headed persona. If it is a film with fantastic creatures, you can write about the amazing job make-up artists did in creating the greasepaint. This demonstration is designed to win us over, but if the filmmakers have convinced us of anything at this point, it’s that they’re working even harder than the characters are to deceive us. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and the Los Angeles Film … Jess fits in nicely with Nicky’s crew as they bop around the French Quarter boosting wallets and watches. Jess is desperate to rise above fleecing rich guys for their spare change, so she shimmies up to Nicky and tries to work her way onto his crew, which has gathered in New Orleans, to skim the crowds gathered for a championship game (composed of made-up teams in a fictional football league). One day at a posh hotel restaurant, he meets Jess (Margot Robbie), a young blond who unsuccessfully tries to run a con on him.Instead of getting angry, Nicky gives her some professional advice. He notices her boosting watches from married men at the hotel bar, so he’s less than surprised when she lures him upstairs and attempts to pull a classic badger game, in which an accomplice claiming to be her husband bursts in to find them in flagrante delicto. If the projector broke after the New Orleans job and I stopped watching there, I’d be over the moon about this picture. Film was introduced in the late 19th century. Michael Sragow is a contributing editor to Film Comment and writes its Deep Focus column. Hard to get too upset, though. Suffice it to say that both Nicky and Jess are operating on more levels than either of them lets on, and that just when things appear to be cooling down, they’re really just heating up. Your focus would depend on the type of the movie and the elements you want to emphasize. Focus, which stars Will Smith as a master con man and Margot Robbie as his new apprentice, spends much of its running time convincing you it is the best entry into the genre in years. This is partially why it is somewhat disappointing, as it feels like Ficarra and Requa went so far afield as a mandate. Extraordinarily furnished interiors? Will Smith plays a con man who meets his match in this suave but slight outing from the directors of 'Crazy, Stupid, Love.'. Want more Rolling Stone? They are intended to help you organise your thinking as you watch a film, and also serve as a summary of the book. I could feel Focus trying to be that caper. The earliest artistic criticism of film emerged in the early 1900s. Nicky allows himself to be seduced, recognizing how the arrangement might serve his own ends, but it catches up with him in the second half, when Jess resurfaces in Buenos Aires, this time on the arm of his rich new boss, racing mogul Rafael Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), who’s flaunting a fuel-burning formula that everyone else in the industry wants. He isn’t trying to steal, but to infiltrate an opposing team and slip them a thingamajig that will lead them to think they have an edge, but will actually do just the opposite. “Residue” is a very apt title for the debut feature of writer/director, Merawi Gerima.We don’t see the title until the film ends, but I believe the first time we hear it, it’s spoken by Lavonne (Melody A. Will Smith lays on the charm in this slick who’s-conning-who caper movie. Sign up for our newsletter. When you rerun certain scenes in your head, it all checks out. For example, there’s the horse race in which Nicky manages to wipe out his winnings, which only we get to see, setting up a gambling problem he might not actually have. Donate TV More Coming Soon to DVD In Theaters In Theaters More […] We didn’t land the big score, but we did come away with a few sparkly trinkets. Will Smith brings all his Slick Willie charm to the role of Nicky Spurgeon, a con man practically from the womb. DVD & Streaming More Plugged In Blog More Help Us Make a Difference Plugged In exists to help you and your family make family appropriate entertainment choices. “Focus” cleanly divides into two parts, and both work best the less one knows about who’s playing whom. Trouble in Paradise, The Sting, The Spanish Prisoner – these are films more about manipulating people than just stealing something. In FOCUS, Nicky is a renowned third-generation con artist who can convince anyone of anything.He has a vetted network of cons working for him, and he can work jobs big or small. For example, you can write how music gave a rich emotional tone to the movie. Photograph: Frank Masi/AP. Alas, this is merely a setup, as the film’s second half eventually reveals that it’s all been a facade. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love), who share writing and directing chores on Focus, are setting up a romance between two people who can never trust each other. It is a long list — and it is still far from comprehensive. It’s almost as if the movie is trying to focus your attention elsewhere. RS Charts: Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion Hold off Justin Bieber in Race for Number One, Trump, a Self-Proclaimed Billionaire, Paid Only $750 in Federal Income Taxes in 2016 and 2017, Report Says, Bill Murray’s Golf Company Sends Humorous Response to Doobie Brothers’ Legal Threat, With 200K Dead, Trump Spews Lies Then Golfs for the 298th Time During His Presidency, Trump’s Massive Debts Are a National Security Crisis, Trump Preached White Supremacy in Minnesota, America Barely Noticed, ‘Tenet’ Review: Christopher Nolan’s Knockout Arrives Right on Time, ‘Bill & Ted Face the Music’ Review: Third Time’s a Most Excellent Charm, ‘Personal History of David Copperfield’ Review: Dickens, Served with a Side of Absurdity. Early on, Nicky expressly tells Jess that there’s no such thing as “the big con,” or the kind of operation so lucrative that everyone can retire and live like kings. Step 3: After You Watch the Movie. Jess doesn’t exactly encourage lechery, but she seems somewhat at peace with the chauvinism of her chosen profession. © Copyright 2020 Variety Media, LLC, a subsidiary of Penske Business Media, LLC. When she shows up again, he’s affected in ways we might find hard to believe, if not for the fact that we’re the only audience to his inner anguish, which we must therefore trust to be sincere: Nicky arrived in Buenos Aires with the intention of double-crossing Garriga, but now he seems to be willing to settle for the man’s girl — potentially a far more dangerous prize, given the distrustful looks he gets from Garriga’s surly head of security (Gerald McRaney). But the work we do is only made possible with donations from generous readers like you. From the moment Smith’s Nicky Spurgeon first sets eyes on Jess (“The Wolf of Wall Street” stunner Margot Robbie), he never misses a beat as he quickly sizes up her scam. Robbie is a wow and then some. The real payoff is the moment it all comes crashing down, quite literally, in a long scene involving a side character, a few shots of tequila, a neck brace and the waste of a perfectly good Ferrari. Film Review: ‘Focus’ Will Smith plays a con man who meets his match in this suave but slight outing from the directors of 'Crazy, Stupid, Love.' Variety and the Flying V logos are trademarks of Variety Media, LLC. As the coloured lights of midtown Manhattan shimmer against Lincoln Center’s snow-topped campus, Nicky playfully educates Jess in the art of the psychological grift. Naturally, Nicky never lets anyone get close. A taste is all you get in Focus, but it’ll do till the whole enchilada comes along. Heist movies come and go, but a good con film is little different. The window of time immediately following the viewing is critical. Will Smith made his film debut as a high-society scammer in “Six Degrees of Separation,” and now, a bit more than 21 years later, he’s back at the hustle in “Focus,” a sexy sleight-of-hand caper that feels small-time by the tentpole king’s standards, though a solid opening ought to prove Smith’s ongoing drawing power — and that there is life after the commercial debacle of 2013’s “After Earth.” Lithely directed by the duo responsible for “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” this suave if quick-to-dissipate divertissement shrewdly recasts the star in the George Clooney mold — a good look for the next stage of Smith’s career. This could have been a defining grifter flick – if they had cut the final third, Last modified on Thu 22 Feb 2018 20.13 GMT. Box Office With $3.4 Million, Olivia Colman Accepts Zurich Award, Praises Co-Star Anthony Hopkins, José Feliciano, Kwanza Jones Buy $20 Million Palisades Mansion, At Work With Abou ‘Bu’ Thiam, Kanye West’s Elusive Manager, Robb Recommends: Silver Oak’s First New Brand in 20 Years Was a Wine Worth the Wait, Overtime Adds CRO, Doubling Sales Staff in Bid for New Ad Clients, Amazon Prime Day 2020: Everything We Know About This Year’s Sales Event. Once the scaffolding crumbles, we’re left on a limping getaway. He plays along out of curiosity, then takes pity. Plus, Margot Robbie looks so damn beautiful with her hair backlit by the streetlamps in the final scenes you’ll realize that’s more interesting than any far-fetched plot pretzels. 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Focus, which stars Will Smith as a master con man and Margot Robbie as his new apprentice, spends much of its running time convincing you it is the best entry into the genre in years. Send us a tip using our anonymous form. Focus opens in a swank New York restaurant where small-time grifter Jess (Robbie) thinks she’s spotted a mark in Nicky (Smith). The Aussie actress who made us sit up and take notice as Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife in The Wolf of Wall Street shows a comic flair backed up with beauty and steel. While not quite the “art” it’s billed to be, if the perfect con is about diverting one’s focus, then this one keeps you distracted ’til the end. It’s a game that shows its hand way too early to take us in. The film ends with that contemporary movie rarity—an authentic and overwhelming display of gratitude. Some stars build their entire careers on it, while others hardly ever let love factor into their work (as those developing material for Dwayne Johnson know, “the Rock don’t do romance,” for example). Music, Film, TV and Political News Coverage 'Focus' Movie Review - Rolling Stone Will Smith lays on the charm in the slick who's-conning-who caper movie 'Focus.' The hotels and high-end clubs in Focus are extraordinarily furnished, and Smith and Robbie look splendid gallivanting among them. In the two decades since Jerry Bruckheimer got his hooks in him with “Bad Boys,” Smith has mostly led with his swagger, whereas here, he dips into the vulnerability that served him well in riskier outings, such as “The Pursuit of Happyness.” With “Focus,” the whole movie hinges on whether we believe he’s met his match: Can one woman possibly break through and tame him? Writing a critique is tough, but the pre-writing worksheet helps to focus students' opinions about the film they watched. eist movies come and go, but a good con film is little different. Since I don’t take a lot of notes during the movie, one of the most important aspects of writing a critique is to stay focused and write down all of the things that stood out to me about the film. But what to do when the streak falters? While Smith and Robbie build the dynamic through flirtatious badinage — best exemplified by a touchy-feely lesson in using distraction to separate a mark from his or her valuables — the production team reinforces the mood through a mix of sleek tones and sensual textures. Even in this second half, which has considerably less steam than the first, Focus must be applauded for sticking to its mission. Questions to consider when watching a film These questions are from Appendix 1 of Focus: The Art and Soul of Cinema (Damaris, 2007). This bombshell is a rookie at the game until Nicky gives her his master class. But the two stars, looking glam as they traverse glam locales like New Orleans, New York and Buenos Aires, are dazzling distractions. Margot Robbie: Richard Curtis (and Martin Scorsese's) new leading lady – interview, A master conman and his new apprentice … Will Smith and Margot Robbie in Focus. That’s the tone they’re going for here: Elmore Leonard novel meets Sharper Image catalog. who lensed their debut, to give this pic its sultry look. Men have upper-body strength, women have batted eyelashes. I’m right here!” she cries out in one of the funnier moments when one of Nicky’s colleagues makes a lewd remark.) “We deal in volume,” he explains, setting up a slick montage of pickpocketing — a virtually invisible craft made flagrant for our benefit, if only to emphasize how a skilled swipe relies on teamwork. Three for three in the surprise-chemistry department, Ficarra and Requa more or less confirm their ability to generate sizzle from thin air, reteaming with Xavier Grobet, the d.p. The whole encounter suggests that writer-director duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have studied not only how con men operate, but also the best of the genre (having already supplied one of its looniest entries with “I Love You Phillip Morris”), channeling the sultry, smooth-jazz vibe of Steven Soderbergh’s “Out of Sight” from the opening scene. His trick is to divert your focus so you won’t know what hit you. (“Hello?!?
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