“It's about distraction. It's about focus. The brain is slow and it can't multitask. Tap him here, take from there.”
When Will Smith is on his game it’s hard to resist his films and Focus is one of those movies that benefits from his charismatic performance. The main problem with After Earth was that he was stripped away from all his charm, but in Focus Smith is back in full force doing what he does best. He plays Nicky, a con artist who is very good at what he does. When a young woman tries to con him, he picks up on it right away and decides to teach her a few things about being a successful con artist. Her name is Jess (Margot Robbie) and with her distracting good looks she seems to be a perfect fit for the job so he hires her as a sort of intern for an upcoming job he is performing along with his personnel in New Orleans during a major football sporting event. Romance blossoms but there are several unexpected twists that take the audience for a ride. Focus benefits from the strong lead roles and the fantastic chemistry between Smith and Robbie. Other than that there is really not much more worth recommending considering the film suffers from one too many plot twists. I do have to admit that I had fun during most of its running time and it’s light entertainment, but the movie does lose a bit of its appeal towards the end. It’s one of those films that are easy to the eyes, but forgettable in the long run.
Focus was written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa who had already worked together in other solid films such as I Love You Phillip Morris and Crazy Stupid Love. I would rank Focus below those movies but I still had a good time thanks mostly to the charismatic lead performances. Crazy Stupid Love is one of my favorite romantic comedies of the past five years so I have a lot of respect for these writer/directors. They have a strong sense of comedy and like to play with genre conventions at times. Focus feels like it is two movies in one because there is one strong segment taking place in New Orleans during the first half hour and then there is another segment taking place in Buenos Aires that despite being amusing, it keeps us guessing so much that it ultimately begins to lose its appeal. I had some issues with some of the character motivations and so on, but in a light breezy film like this it is easier to enjoy without thinking too much about it. It is similar in tone to the Ocean’s Eleven franchise and it is never dull to look at thanks to the dreamy cinematography. However when it comes to the con element I didn’t find it as witty or engaging as other films. Matchstick Men still remains as one of my favorite in this department and if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it.
The highlights of Focus other than the strong performances from the good looking duo of Smith and Robbie are the early scenes where we are introduced to the con activities. There is a thrilling scene during a football game where Smith’s character is making some crazy bets with a millionaire played by BD Wong. It’s probably the highest point of the film, but I was still entertained throughout the movie. There are also some solid supporting performances from Rodrigo Santoro, Gerald McRaney, and Adrian Martinez, who has some funny scenes here. In the end it suffers a bit from being too self explanatory and taking some crazy twists and turns, but if you are bored you will be entertained for a couple of hours.