Will Smith is not a cute kid anymore. And he hasn’t matured into a handsome man. He is an ugly, creepy thing that looks like an emaciated Rondo Hatton. If you don’t know who Rondo is, check out the 1948 horror picture, “The Creeper.” Will Smith is no Denzel Washington and should not be playing George Clooney roles. It is not working for him anymore. Yet here he is, the leading man in an abominable flop of a romantic drama about a con artist and his tacky skank of a partner, played by the plastic-skinned, talentless monstrosity who goes by the name Margot Robbie. Together, they are meant to be glamorous. If watching a badly-aged rap star cavort in bed with a latex air doll is today’s definition of glamour, so be it. The movie still sucks. To begin with, the con-man genre is so stale and overdone at this point that nobody in the audience requires a primer on grifting. Or even a brush-up review of the genre’s conventions. Everybody knows that when the protagonist loses a million dollar bet and walks off with a tear in his eye, he is going to come back and double the bet, taking the mark for all he’s worth. And when somebody is shot dead, you can bet he will get up and dust himself off in the next scene. It is such a load of corny folderol and the makers of “Focus” think we are all a bunch of ignorant suckers who are going to ooh and ahh in surprise with every stale twist. As if that were not bad enough, this is the most technically inept thing I have seen since the advent of CGI. Take the scene in the New Orleans Stadium. Will and Margot appear to be seated in some kind of VIP Club Section, yet their perspective of the field and our perspective of where they are actually placed in the seating chart changes with each process shot. Mostly it looks like this elite area is at eye level with the upper seats of the third tier, but some of their field views are on the sidelines twenty rows up from the field, while others are nearer the endzone on the third tier. Now, I have never been to a ball game in New Orleans, so I don’t know if VIP’s there prefer to sit in the nosebleed section or if music by the Rolling Stones is blasted over the sound system while the game is being played, but it certainly seems unusual. In fact, nothing in this movie resembles anything outside the world of this movie. It is a total sham, conceived in the bowels of a vomitorium and nurtured in the syphilitic whorehouses of back street Hollywood.
So what can Will Smith learn from Chris Rock? Well, just as Will is no longer a cute kid, Chris is no longer funny. But Chris knows this, and so he has made a movie about a comic who is no longer funny. “Top Five” is not a good movie, but it is an honest one, and even boasts some insights into the pretentious seriousity of recent pictures such as “12 Years a Slave,” that scandalous British approximation of African-American heritage that expects its audience to take it on faith that an under-nourished woman can pick 300 pounds of cotton a day when the muscular men are capable of bringing in a mere fifty pounds. The story here is that the serious, socially aware movies Rock is making now are flops with an audience that wants more of the earlier, funny stuff (sound familiar, woody?). He is getting so down and out that he has agreed to marry his reality-television bride on television. And if Chris Rock isn’t so funny anymore, his co-star Rosario Dawson is hilarious. So here are a few things Will Smith can learn from Chris Rock. When your day is done, you don’t have to retire. Just back off a little. Instead of starring in some studio piece of shit, rock has written, directed, and played the lead in his own movie. And he supports his own performance with a leading lady who sports a real face, not one that looks to have been designed by the guy who made the mask for Lon Chaney’s Phantom of the Opera. (Check out those choppers inside Margot’s skeletal mug.) Dawson and Rock are an entertaining couple, and their scenes together are the glue that holds “Top Five” together. So get a clue, Will Smith, and quit trolling the modelling agencies for chicks. You are enough of a phony without having to exacerbate the situation with grotesque fleshpots who can’t act.