Never drop the con. But also, more importantly never drop the plot line.
Let’s preface this by explaining how I came to be watching this movie. Was it because of the cast of talented actors, you ask? No. How about the cinematography? Nope. The plot? Nuh-uh. The script? Still no.
It was because of electricity. Not between the lead actors, or in their performances, but rather my lack of it. Yes, the power was out and the cinema was cold, ie. It was an obvious solution. Here is what I knew about this movie going in:
“In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s latest scheme, a woman from his past – now an accomplished femme fatale – shows up and throws his plans for a loop.”
And I said something along the lines of “eh, why not.”
Pleasantly surprised seems to be the best way to describe this movie. It starts off as a standard con movie, featuring tropes such as the experienced-con-man-takes-on-fresh faced-protégé, the multiple con-in-progress montages, and the mysterious-troubled-con-man-leaves-fresh-faced-girl-who-hasn’t –yet-become-jaded-because-he-thinks-he’s-bad-for-her. This section is all part of a very long flashback to explain the backstory of Will Smith’s character, Nicky, and Margot Robbie’s character, Jess. The nature of this section led me to believe that the rest of the movie would follow this theme of a largely con-central movie, with a romantic subplot, but once it cuts to three years later the tone changes entirely.
Now, three years later, Nicky is working a job, when Jess reappears as the girlfriend of his employer, supposedly having quit the life. The rest of the movie is Nicky working the con and trying to win Jess back. This is where my reaction changes to a combination of “meh” and “DISAPPOINTED.”
The beginning of the movie set itself up to be a really clever movie; the kind where you have no idea how they managed to pull each con off, until they explain it and you realize that the threads and hints have been running through all the previous scenes, but you just haven’t noticed them. I was hoping for it to be at the level of Now You See Me, or The Usual Suspects. Once the flashback’s ended, however, everything seems to meander a bit. There were half a dozen really clever plot twists that they could have gone with, but it felt like they tried to go with a fewof them but then stopped halfway through. There were a couple threads that got mentioned in the beginning that reappeared at the end, but they didn’t have the same effect because they hadn’t been properly hinted at throughout the movie. This was disappointing especially considering how well this was done in the beginning of the movie.
It was like having a murder mystery, where first, we are shown a flash back of the detective’s previous cases, solved à la Sherlock Holmes, then it cuts to the present day, and after an hour and a half of random case solving, and trying to make their ex-girlfriend take them back, the detective points to a random person and shouts “HE DID IT.” And instead of saying “Ohh! That makes so much sense!” you say “oh, okay… I can kinda see that…”
I find it somewhat ironic that the movie with the two main promotional slogans being “never lose focus” and “never drop the con,” slowly meanders downhill into first-draft fluff. Those slogans imply some sort of genius reveal at the end, right? It would make sense for “never drop the con” to imply that either one or both of the main characters has some set of ulterior motives, or another con running under the surface, doesn’t it?
Overall it’s a decent movie, with some good laughs, and good acting; it’s perfectly enjoyable, what’s really frustrating is that it could have been so much more.