Posts Tagged ‘Adrian Martinez’

From the Big Easy to Buenos Aires

FOCUS

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Directors: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro, Brennan Brown, Adrian Martinez, Dominic Fumusa

The writing and directing team of I Love You Philip Morris, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa recreate a similar glossier con film teaming up Will Smith (Bad Boys) and Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street) in Focus.

Con artists, petty thieves, grifters all unite in this amusing if slightly drawn out tale of Nicky who first meets the flirtatious Jess beautifully played by Robbie in a swanky New York Hotel bar. The chemistry between the two onscreen are palpable and soon the action or lack thereof, moves from icy New York to sultry New Orleans during the SuperBowl weekend.

As the crowds flock to the Big Easy to watch the Superbowl or known as the National Finals of the American Football, the con is on as Nicky with a band of thieves and light fingered crew rob the unsuspecting crowds of their watches, jewellery, wallets and even luggage in the infamous French Quarter or one of New Orleans swanky hotels.

As Nicky and Jess procure tickets to the Superbowl finals, his proclivity for gambling becomes evident as he delves into sports betting against a notorious Chinese gambler, Liyuan flamboyantly played by B. D. Wong (The Normal Heart).

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As the stakes get higher Jess soon realizes that the number 55 chosen by the gambler is part of a larger con to extract more cash out of him. After doubling their money in New Orleans, a crime partnership seems imminent put then Nicky does the unexpected U-turn and dumps Jess in the Big Easy much to her horror.

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The action moves forward three years to the Argentinian capital of Buenos Aires to the racy and glamourous world of Formula One racing driving where Nicky is employed by a wealthy Argentinian playboy Garriga wonderfully played by Rodrigo Santoro who incidentally also appeared in I Love you Philip Morris to con a rival Australian team out of a special racing gadget. As Nicky told Jess back in New York when the con is on, one needs to always maintain focus.

Things in Buenos Aires get murkier when Jess appears on the scene looking absolutely gorgeous in a red dress at an Argentine nightclub. Margot Robbie who excelled as the wife of Jordan Belfort in Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street excels in this role making the screen sizzle with her beauty and naughty naivety. Viewers should also watch out for a great character role of Owens superbly played by Gerald McRaney recently seen in the brilliant Netflix series House of Cards.

Without giving away more of the plot, Focus does actually lose some of its focus especially in some of the scenes between Smith and Robbie, and the narrative does appear disjointed and is nowhere near as compact or sinister as Stephen Frears classic, The Grifters, but then that was on an entirely more sophisticated film. Although Focus by writing and directing team Ficarra and Requa is not the first film of theirs that I have compared to The Grifters, Stephen Frears’s film noir classic, it is certainly the benchmark to set all con films by.

Focus is a fun filled if slightly drawn out con movie, with lots of glamour, a lot less action but nevertheless it’s beautiful to watch, yet the filmmakers fail to draw the audience in too deeply into the characters misfortunes. Recommended for those that enjoyed Now You See Me and I Love You Philip Morris.

 

 

 

That Seventies Con!

American Hustle

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Director: David O. Russell

Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Shea Wingham, Robert de Niro, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena

Acclaimed director of Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell delivers another cinematic masterpiece with his latest film American Hustle about a couple of con artists in New York in 1978 during the Disco era. Think fabulous Seventies costumes, broad Jersey accents, big hair, the brilliantly ensemble cast of American Hustle all deliver top notch acting along with some sassy flair and loads of self-deception.

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Oscar Winner Christian Bale (The Fighter) is brilliant as  Irving Rosenfeld a two-bit con artist with a chain of dry cleaning businesses which also double as a front for selling fake art to unsuspecting New Yorkers who teams up with Sidney/Edith a sexy pole dancer turned grifter superbly played by Amy Adams (Doubt, The Fighter) at a Jersey pool party in January!

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Together the ever glamorous Edith sporting a fake British accent and the smooth talking wily potbellied Irving unveil their small scams selling unsuspecting lines of credit to gamblers, pimps and two bit hustlers. However their duplicitous lives are crossed by unstable Richie diMarso energetically played by Bradley Cooper (Place beyond the Pines), complete with a perm and a pent-up attitude who is in fact an FBI agent out to catch bigger fish from corrupt politicians to American mobsters who control the Florida casinos in Florida are looking to reinvigorate Jersey’s den of iniquity Atlantic City with its newly acquired gambling licences.

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The setting is New York, 1978 in the wake of the Watergate scandal, when the American public are distrustful of smooth taking politicians and economically hangover from a 1977 oil embargo and a costly Vietnam war. Director Russell captures the ambience of the late 1970’s Americana perfectly heavily influenced by the films of that period including The French Connection, American Gigolo and even the 007 film Live and Let Die. As the narrative unfolds a complication comes in the form of the no-nonsense confident chain smoking wife of Irving, Rosalyn Rosenfeld, a knockout performance by Jennifer Lawrence, last year’s Oscar winner for Silver Linings Playbook.

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American Hustle follows a cleverly scripted and elaborate plot about these four drifters and cons who not only try to out wit the FBI, the mob and a shady Jersey politician Mayor Carmine Polito a well coiffed Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy) involving shifting money for fronting an imaginary investment into the revitalization of Atlantic City casinos. Oddly enough the con also involves funds from a mysterious Abu Dhabi Sheik, comically downplayed by Michael Pena who is in fact Mexican.

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Amy Adams gives a tour de force performance as Sidney/Edith a vulnerable yet shrewd woman who can smooth talk any man out of his cash which is certainly Oscar worthy along with the rest of the brilliant ensemble cast making up regulars from David O. Russell’s two previous hit films Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter.

Alessandro Nivola (Coco Avant Chanel), Robert de Niro (Casino) and Shea Wingham (Savages, Take Shelter) also make a welcome appearance. Any viewer who experienced or grew up in the sassy disco inspired 1970’s will appreciate every aspect of authenticity of this ambiance infused con drama featuring magnetic performances by the four leads along with a witty, comic and incisive script co written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer.

American Hustle is a sophisticated sexy adult drama dripping with menace and deception, complete with a dynamic plot in the lines of Stephen Frears excellent The Grifters and Sam Mendes American Beauty. It’s the ultimate homage film about that Seventies Con featuring the unrivalled power of intention and people’s limitless capacity for survival, love and betrayal.

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