Film Reviews


By • May 4th, 2015 •

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Let’s hope this slips away before everyone realizes that the terrific hot chick from The Wolf of Wall Street stars in this. Will Smith goes through it looking angry at his agent.

How did superstar Will Smith get talked into this? Was it the first class locations? It certainly wasn’t his wardrobe. Maybe it was Margot Robbie as his love interest.

Con artist. The term uses the word “artist” because an “artist” is someone who is exceptionally good at something he/she creates himself/herself. While the term ‘artist” is grandly bestowed on Damien Hirst – the world’s richest “artist” – he has a factory of assistants who do his dot and spot paintings!*

Nicky (Will Smith) is a con artist with a large staff of assistants. At a hotel bar, he quickly sizes up a young woman flirting with a man. The woman, Jess (Margot Robbie), is new at stealing wallets from drunks. Nicky knows the scam when she walks over to him asking him to pretend to be her boyfriend.

I cringed at this sloppy introduction to the characters.

After an evening of bar chatter, Nicky sets her straight about how to really “con” a man. She’s got talent but it’s not developed or seasoned yet. Hey, Nicky pulls out “the neg”. He must have read The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists.

Somehow, Robbie delivers a line of dialogue without cringing herself. She says: “Teach me.”

Robbie may be a seductress-in-training but sparks do not fly when she’s alone with Nicky. So when Nicky turns up at her hotel room door, we know it’s time for a tailored shirt to come off.

Being a successful “con man” requires a vast team. It must take a year to get all the people jobs as cocktail waitresses, parking attendants, cooks, waiters, and the kid at the In-And-Out Burger. For Nicky, Inc. to work a “con” at a Super Bowl, he needs a corporation and an accountant.

How do you get on a plane with a million dollars in cash? Just asking. Now that would be informative – not how to go to New Orleans and steal wallets from Mardi Gras revelers.

So how’s this for engaging your movie audience? We are shown as a crowd of idiot tourists.

As soon as someone says to Nicky, “Don’t gamble,” you know that gym bag filled with cash is going to be “in play”. And soon Nicky is betting on trivial things ($1,000 bet on how many guys check out a woman’s ass) with an Asian whale, Liyuan (BD Wong), who actually enjoys his money. Conveniently, he has a flunky holding a suitcase of cash.

Jess has not “matured” yet. She’s a big “mark” as well. Seems innocent bystanders are more convincing then the people in on the “con”.

After the success of the Super Bowl “con”, Nicky gives Jess her cut and sets her loose.

Three years pass and now Jess is a pro. She’s romancing – chastely – a mega-rich Brazilian, played by the gloriously handsome Rodrigo Santoro. (If you haven’t seen HELENO, you are missing a fantastic performance by Santoro.)

This rich guy owns a racing car team and has a super-smart device that enhances his cars by milliseconds. This nameless rich guy also seems to adore Jess, who is now spending his money. There is only one problem. Jess loves Nicky, not the rich guy. We never know why. Without one noticeable flaw, he looked perfect to me.

The rich guy has hired Nicky to pretend to be a disgruntled mechanic who has information a rival would pay for. So, the racing world’s mechanics are a highly specialized group. How can Nicky just waltz in and claim to be the rich guy’s chief mechanic? No one asked for his bona fides.

The only colorful character worth watching is Adrian Martinez, who plays Nicky’s sideman Farhad. The screenwriters, who also directed, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, most have sneaked in this character past Will, since he has all the best lines.

Smith looks like he is suffering from remorse throughout the movie. I was expecting a sad story why he turned to stealing-through-misrepresentation. Jess was a foster child so she’s excused.

This tired, uninteresting movie is itself a “con” job. While Robbie tries her best to look at Smith as if she wants to go to bed with him, the undefinable chemistry is just not there. Smith doesn’t once give the impression that he wants to do unspeakable acts of passion with Robbie.

*In 2012 there was a Damien Hirst exhibition, The Complete Spot Paintings 1986-2011, in London. Famously, Hirst does not produce the works himself. But asked if it was true that he had painted only five of the 1,400 spot paintings in existence, and asked how he could justify putting his name to works made by others, Hirst said the questions were “totally missing the point”.

I know, I know: Michelangelo had assistants. However, when working on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, Michelangelo hired and fired numerous assistants who would mix his paints, prepare plaster, and climb up and down the ladders delivering neededsupplies. Occasionally an assistant whom Michelangelo felt had some talent would be permitted to paint a patch of sky, a segment of landscape or a minimal figure.

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Member of Las Vegas Film Critics

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at

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