Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro
This is the first film Oscar nominated, mega-action star, Will Smith had opened outside of a summer release or a holiday since he became the go to guy for blockbusters. It seems After Earth, co-starring his son Jaden, knocked him down a few more notches then we realized. If the release date of late February wasn’t enough of a precursor, the fact that the lead in Focus was offered to Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck before Smith, seals the deal. Let’s face it though, this film is just a chance to focus on Margot Robbie’s shooting stardom, her first major role since breaking out in The Wolf of Wall Street. This is a con artist / heist film with no major action scenes, no real gusto, just Robbie acting like a smart girl but talking like a bimbo.
Nicky (Smith) is known in certain circles as one of the best con men in the business, that’s why he has drawn the attention of newcomer Jess (Robbie) looking to get into the billion dollar industry. He runs a small, tight nit group; they hit often, and small amounts that add up to keep everyone comfortable. Nicky hits large events like the super bowl, training eye catching Jess to pick-pocket without anyone noticing, swipe credit cards and put the back without arousing suspicion. He also lets his guard down with her and is forced to walk away from a blossoming relationship. Three years later, the tables have turned and in the biggest gamble of his life, Nicky plays it close to home and Jess appears to remind him what he walked away from.
Focus is a vehicle for Robbie and nothing more, Smith is just there to sell the tickets.
In less than five minutes of the opening credits, Smith is flaunting his impressive 46-year-old physique rolling around with the vivacious and very well accented Robbie. Focus kick starts the film with an eye on sexiness and maintains it throughout. What it never grasps however is a reason to keep watching. The dialogue from a script co-written/directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa isn’t sexy, smooth or edgy. The cinematography plays it safe, rarely getting the opportunity to use impressive camera movements or angles. There is a lot of back and forth dialogue trying to impress the audience with doubles crosses and a surprise ending that isn’t good enough to make the previous 90 minutes worthwhile.
Has Smith lost his edge? Possibly, but while he has been preoccupied with sequels and franchises, desperately trying to convince himself he isn’t getting older, roles that might safely guide him into a respectable and sustained career are passing him by so he can film Bad Boys 3. Focus is a vehicle for Robbie and nothing more, Smith is just there to sell the tickets. Co-stars Gerald McRaney and Adrian Martinez are more entertaining than Smith. Focus has no heart, no pizzazz, it’s stale because con artist films are a dime a dozen and this one never has the chops to go somewhere the others haven’t gone before.
Never comes into Focus.