Release Date: 27 February 2015
Running time: 104 min
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Adrian Martinez, Brennan Brown
Blessed with excellent comic timing and effortless charm, Will Smith was a beloved Hollywood star not so long ago. Recently however he seems to have lost his mojo, starring in increasingly lacklustre fare without even having the good grace to make us laugh while he does it. His last starring role in M Night Shyamalan’s terrible After Earth was the final straw for some, the quasi-scientology undertones and presence of his son also making it weirdly personal. Focus would have to be something very special to erase the memory of such nonsense from our minds; unfortunately it’s not.
Professional con-man Nicky (Smith) takes Jess (Robbie) under his wing after her amateur attempt to pull a fast one on him backfires. Keeping her on as an “intern”, the pair have a brief fling before she is given her cut of the earnings and then abandoned suddenly by Nicky on a road-side. Three years later, Nicky is hired by crooked racing driver Garriga (Santoro) to sabotage one of his opponents, when Jess unexpectedly reappears as Garriga’s girlfriend.
Applying classic magician tactics such as sleight of hand and distraction to con artistry, Nicky is like a crooked, super-buff Derren Brown. Jess is very much the magician’s pretty assistant at first, but then re-emerges as a toothless (not literally) femme fatale. There is some chemistry present between them, but for a central relationship they fail to ignite the screen in any spectacular fashion. Even though he barely appears to have aged in the last 10 years, the once casual attractiveness of Smith has diminished with his sense of humour, his steely suarveness coming off as dull rather than sexy.
The plot is constantly twisting and turning on itself in a way that writer-directors Ficarra and Requa think is incredibly clever, but it’s all tediously predictable. Even when we are mildly surprised, it’s only because it has reached the point of ludicrousness, not because it has beaten our ability to apply logic. Also clearly aiming for a sleek, ultra-cool look, this reaches at times for the sultry sophistication of Out of Sight, but fails to capture its earthy sensuality. Throw in some lazy misogynistic jokes and the whole thing leaves a slightly unwelcome after-taste. On the plus side, you probably won’t need Men in Black‘s memory-wiping neuralyzer to cast this from your memory; it’s not even bad enough to linger in your thoughts. Thoroughly average.