Will Smith Is A Blank Slate Now, And Focus Doesn't Help

February 27, 2015 7:15 PM

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Will Smith Is A Blank Slate Now, And Focus Doesn't Help

Most movie stars charm us by creating the illusion that we know them. Tom Cruise's appeal comes in large part from our identification with his intense, full-throttle performances; the Rock, his eyebrow always arched in a self-mocking way, lets us in on the joke that action movies are preposterous, and, therefore, we should have a little fun with them. Even a chameleon like Daniel Day-Lewis establishes a connection with us as The Ultimate Craftsman, shaping performances that seduce us with their sheer virtuosity.

So what about Will Smith? At one point our most charismatic big-screen presence—and now just our most unknowable—the 46-year-old actor has been a movie star for about 20 years. But watching him in his new romantic thriller, Focus, I was struck by the fact that although he remains a magnetic figure, ...

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