Focus – Is this Will Smith’s ‘Make or Break’ Movie?

When I was growing up Will Smith was my favourite actor and weirdly….. my favourite rapper too (I was young, forgive me). The man could do no wrong in my eyes. Blockbuster hit after hit, chart domination and star of one of the best shows on TV, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. To say the least, he was The MAN! Unfortunately, the Will Smith of today pales in comparison.

If you’re wondering why my opinion of Will Smith has fallen so much, I’ll answer that in two words… After Earth.

After Earth

I can’t say much on this film, because I only got through the first 20 minutes of it before calling it a day, which is 20 minutes more than most people gave it based on its Box Office performance- debuting third behind ‘Fast 6’ and ‘Now You See Me’ respectively. After Earth was a FLOP produced on a massive $130 million budget, but only raked in $27 million in its first week, bringing an abrupt end to Will Smith’s formidable streak of 12 films that grossed over 100 million domestically (spanning from 1996-2008). What made this even more painful was that it was a family affair. Will Smith and his wife Jada Pinkett Smith co-produced the film, whilst their son Jaden played a leading role alongside his father. Definitely not the Smith family’s finest hour.

Back To Focus. In Will’s latest film ‘Focus’ he plays an expert con-man called Nicky Spurgeon looking to pull off the heist of his career, but finds himself romantically involved with his former protégé Jess Barrett (played by Australian actress Margot Robbie) who was planning the same heist. Nicky and Jess are fully aware of each other’s baggage as con-artists, which makes it almost impossible for them to truly trust each other, a situation that is only made worse by the huge amount of money at stake. If there are two things in life that shouldn’t mix… it’s Money and Love.

Here’s the trailer:

The MAKE: 

If the trailer is anything to go on, Focus has a lot of promise! It follows a proven Box Office combination of ‘romance and crime’, seen in successful movies like ‘Mr and Mrs Smith’ (2005), ‘Out of Sight’ (1998) and most famously, ‘Bonnie and Clyde’ (1967). Smith’s pairing with Margot Robbie in Focus is definitely one I’m looking forward to! Margot held her own alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street, proving herself to be a very capable actress in the cut-throat industry Hollywood movie industry, especially in a film of that calibre. As for Will, the romantic element gives him a chance to show emotion and be the dynamic actor we all know him to be, something that his last role didn’t.

Focus might be just the film role Will Smith needs to bounce back from After Earth. The character of Nicky seems to have a level of depth to it that Will hasn’t been able to offer his fans or critics since his outstanding performance in ‘I Am Legend’ (2007). Nicky’s character incorporates bravado, professionalism and vulnerability, strikingly similar to Smith’s present situation, Making it the perfect role!

The BREAK:

Will Smith has got a lot to lose if this film doesn’t go well. If it doesn’t deliver, he will be a borderline ‘has-been’. Hollywood is an unforgiving industry and investing in a leading man who can’t bring in the numbers is a mistake filmmakers only make ONCE.

In a recent interview he said that After Earth left “a thing broken in his mind”, which comes as no surprise seeing as it had been “20 years since any of his films didn’t top Box Office”. In the same interview, Will said that he’s going to start making more “artistically dangerous choices” and “doesn’t care if they’re #1 movies”. Although he claims that #1 films aren’t important and that he is looking to make changes in his career, I personally don’t buy it. What I see is a man who has lost his way, a man who wants the blockbuster hits of his past, but doesn’t think he’s capable of achieving those heights again….

Here’s a link to Smith’s in-depth interview: http://www.theguardian.com/film/2015/feb/11/will-smith-after-earth-focus

Will Smith as Ali

Humility has never been one of Will’s strong suits and that’s what his fans loved about him. His character on and off set was largely defined by his confidence, some would even go as far as to call it arrogance, but whatever it was, it worked! From his early days as a rapper and star of The Fresh Prince, to his effortless portrayal of the great Mohammed Ali in ‘Ali’ (2001), he always looked assured in his abilities; even in films like ‘Pursuit of Happyness’ (2006) when he was down on his luck, he had an air of confidence that made you believe that this was a man who would overcome any obstacles in his way. But after his After Earth failure, Will looks humbled and for me this diminishes his on-screen persona. His recent misfortunes will make it a lot harder for his fans (including myself) to buy into the idea of him as a confident, self-assured hustler and definitely a lot harder for him to sell it.

People of my age group and older are always going to remember Will Smith at the height of his success, regardless of the uncertainty surrounding in his career right now. However, his superstar influence on the new generation is undeniably hinging on the success of Focus.

To finish this post I’m going end on something I saw that left me lost for words. Whilst I was waiting for a bus I (ironically) overheard some kids talking about Focus, but what struck me is that they didn’t call refer to the star of the film as ‘Will Smith’, but instead as “Jaden Smith’s dad”. Which made me think, “If Will’s only claim to fame amongst today’s generation is being  Jaden’s father rather than a star in his own right, maybe the damage to his career has already been done…..”

Do You Think Focus Is Will Smith’s ‘Make or Break’ Film? Will Focus Be A Success?

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