Focus: Film Review

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I had high hopes for this because I have such affection for Will Smith and it looked like he was back on point after the failure that was After Earth. And yes, he is back to his charismatic, witty self but Focus is pretty confused about what it wants to be. I thought it was a heist movie with some rom com factors thrown in, but it was not at all – it was a romantic comedy through and through, just set in the con artist world.

Will Smith stars as Nicky, a veteran con artist running a pickpocketing and fraud operation, who foils Jess’ (Margot Robbie) attempt at luring him to bed and conning him. He helps her learn the tricks of the trade and the pair becomes lovers and co-workers, until it all abruptly falls down. Flash forward three years and Nicky has stepped up his game and is working the world of race car driving. He is getting ready to score his next con when he bumps into Jess and chaos ensues.

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The movie wasn’t sure when to be funny, romantic or intense, which meant it was tonally all over the place. The issue with making a rom com in a heist world is that you can’t invest in the relationship (a genre staple) because you know they are both lying and playing each other, and the extent of their deception will come in the end (and this takes far too long to happen FYI). Yet, because it is a rom com you know the stakes of the con are never going to be that high because it will have the happy, satisfactory ending obligatory in rom coms. Trying to tie in both genres was a clever idea but not executed well because it could not get the balance right so neither aspect gets a satisfactory pay off.

I cannot deny that it was perfectly cast. Smith had the charm and confidence to pull it off while Robbie looked the part (she had to be the sexy femme fatale often) but she also brought a range of emotion to the role. They had brilliant chemistry. Maybe not so much in the bedroom, but the way they fire off each other in conversations were great. You can sense they enjoyed each other’s company. I feel like they did the best they could with the characters, it’s just a shame the plot let it down.

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The script is a rather naff at moments, but it’s not a complete dud. There are some hilarious moments in this which made laugh out loud, but not consistently so. Smith got some laughs just from the delivery of some lines (no surprise there). I loved the first half where she is learning the tricks of the trade – I found that fascinating although the basics of con artistry is rattled through so quickly it’s hard to pick up. The plot is slightly murky, the details of the main heist are skimmed over and the whole thing could and should have been so much slicker.  I will give the look of the piece credit though – the set (New York and Buenos Aires), the people, costumes and hair all looked incredible.

Focus concentrated more on romance than the con plot and I think I would have preferred it the other way around. It had all the resources to be great, especially Will and Margot, but sadly, it just didn’t work.

Released Friday

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