Friday, February 27, 2015

Focus [2015]

MPAA (R)  CNS/USCCB (L)  ChicagoTribune (2 Stars) (3 Stars)  AVClub (C+)  Fr. Dennis (2 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB (J. Mulderig) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Focus [2015] (cowritten and codirected by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa) which plays like a glossier, au courant (and R-rated) version of the The Sting [1973] is, one hopes ;-), intended to be a diversion and NOT a "how to" manual for life.

There's a scene still fairly early in the film in which Nicky (played by Will Smith) an expert/hardened, third generation conman and his partner Farhad (played by Adrian Martinez) organize "a crew" of about dozen pickpockets in New Orleans in the days before a (Super?) Bowl Game.  Among them was then a 20-something year-old "apprentice" named Jess (played by Margot Robbie) who as a small-time grifter ran into Nicky before and now wanted "to learn from the best."  These pickpockets then walk then the length of Bourbon Street as if they were a phalanx and fleece the revelers as if they were harvesting corn.  One bumped a tourist on the left, another took his wallet from his right.  And before he even realized that the wallet was gone, he's bumped again and as he swings his arm to regain his balance, someone unburdens him of his watch.  In this _spectacularly choreographed_ "ballet of thieves," the crew passed methodically through the crowd, harvesting their valuables as if they were a combine passing through a field ;-).

Improbable, yes, but AMAZING to watch ;-) ... But ALSO PLEASE DON'T THINK IT WOULD BE THAT EASY and IN ANY CASE, stealing is one of the sins _specifically listed_ in the Ten Commandments:  Thou Shalt Not Steal (Ex 20:15).

But presented on screen, here, does it look SOOO, SOOOO... COOL ;-) ... Even if, again, we Catholics are asked in the renewal of our Baptismal promises: "Do you reject the glamour of Evil and refuse to be mastered by Sin?"

So this is a problematic movie ... even if I do believe that most people will take it as a "wouldn't it be nice..." _day-dream_ and little more.

But we are dealing with Evil here.  So part of the film's sound-track is The Rolling Stones' über (and ever intentionally so...) glamorous / slick song, Sympathy for the Devil.  And Nick and Jess, both portrayed as über attractive / slick people, are shown repeatedly hopping into bed with each other throughout the course of the film (though always in various stylized ways that does leave most to the imagination) as they go through one "con" after another.   Why?  Why would they hop into bed with each other after each ever better-executed "con"?  Well, I suppose because they were BOTH BECOMING SO _DAMN_ AWESOME that there was no other way release all that (let's be honest, demonic) "awesomeness".

All this is to say that this is one very well-made and often "hot" film.  I just hope that NO ONE really follows their example.  And my sense is that most who would be stupid enough to do so, will end up (quite quickly) in jail ...

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