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This is normally not a place for movie reviews but once in a while a film comes along that I cannot help but discuss. Focus starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie is just such a film. Unfortunately, for all the wrong reasons.

Focus is bad. Shockingly, inexcusably bad. The script. The acting. The direction. It’s wrongly made in every way.

Where to begin? The story is about a con man (Smith), who mentors another (Robbie), and the subsequent shit they get into. Forgive my logline. It’s not really possible to put this mess of a narrative into words. The screenwriter couldn’t do it and neither can I. Between elaborate and unbelievable cons the couple falls in love (awkward and painful) and are ultimately involved in a super con that goes awry.

Or does it???

Look. This sort of thing is supposed to be fun (like The Sting or Paper Moon) but alas it is anything but.

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Instead we have stereotypical bad guys drawn up like buffoons from the worst Steven Seagal movies: The corrupt Spanish racecar driver! The inscrutable Asian gambler. The funny fat friend! These guys are thrown into the movie like dodge balls. None hitting their mark.

Bobbing and weaving, Smith and Robbie almost get by on their looks alone. That these comely actors fail in every way is alone inexcusable. Margot Robbie is freaking hot, no question. She’s the “It Girl” who blew us and Leonardo Dicaprio away in The Wolf of Wall Street. Yet, half way through this movie I wanted to strangle her. Blame the script and the actress’s ham-fisted efforts to sell it. As for Smith, he hasn’t really done a good film in years (I Am Legend had its moments) and this outing keeps that string alive, achieving a new low. Here he channels George Clooney and comes off more like Rosemary Clooney.

The film’s IMDB page claims it cost over $50 million dollars to produce. After smith’s salary I suppose most of that went into the James Bond-like locations: Manhattan, Barcelona, The Super Bowl in New Orleans! But they are squandered, at best serving as distractions from the ridiculous story.

In the end it is the script that defeats this film. Like a good con we should not be able to detect exposition. In Focus the plot fills and back stories are rampant and obvious. Every con must be explained when it’s completed. And even then they are to put it delicately implausible. At one point we are lead to believe a character makes a bad bet based on subliminal cues, one of them buried in lyrics to a Rolling Stone song played on the radio! It doesn’t work because it couldn’t work.

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If the film weren’t so listless it might become famously bad like Showgirls. More likely it will just fade into oblivion, making a portion of its budget back streaming online, yet never to matter ever again.


“Chicago, we have a problem.”

In my last post I wrote about pieces of music that have formed indelible impressions on me. Vivid memories evoked every time I listen to a particular track. Several of those songs are from seventies-era rock bands: Heart, Boston & Yes. High school lives!

Thinking about that period, I was reminded of another rock-related event in my life, which, as fate would have it, also served as precursor to my eventual career in advertising. In the late seventies, before I had any inkling of being a copywriter, I actually participated in an ambitious marketing program for the science fiction movie, Saturn 3 starring Kirk Douglas, Farrah Fawcett Majors and Harvey Keitel. In the very likely event you never heard of it, here is the link.


The movie wasn’t all bad.

The production company (Transatlantic Films) wanted to bolster interest in the film among teenagers. Being one, I volunteered and was chosen to be among several young people asked to don a space suit and hand out propaganda for the film at a rock concert. I’m not positive but I believe the venue was the old Chicago Stadium (since demolished) and the act was Judas Priest (still chugging).

Free tickets to see Priest plus the chance to wear a space suit was basically a fantasy come true for a goofy fifteen year old such as myself. Unlike the music-induced memories I wrote about last time I have virtually no recollection of the concert. I do remember being asked over and over and over again if I had any weed. Kids just equated the space suit with getting high. On top of that back then smoking up at concerts was commonplace. But I digress…

Thankfully, my mother took the above photograph of me wearing the space suit before my gig at the Stadium. I wish I still had the suit; it would make a killer Halloween costume. Alas, like my flowing brown locks, it is only a memory. I never saw the spacesuit again.

Or did I?


My second poster for Altoids.