Free Press Journal

Movie Review: Focus – Smart, slick, but shallow


Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adrian Martinez, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santaro, BD Wong, Robert Taylor

Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Co-written and co-directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love) Focus revolves around a group of con artists, who have clearly been sourced from Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist. Will Smith’s seasoned con man Nicky is a sleek, souped up Fagin, albeit one with a heart . He also shares with beautiful bleached blonde Jess (Robbie) a sad backstory not dissimilar to orphaned Ollie’s.

The story starts with a pickup, an amorous encounter in a New York hotel room, and an attempted blackmail a la Mikael Håfström’s Derailed starring Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, and Vincent Cassel. But Derailed was a crime thriller, whereas Focus is a con caper. And Nicky isn’t terrorised like Owen’s business exec. He’s a cool customer who complies with small time con-woman Jess’s pleas to teach her the tricks of the trade and participate in con jobs.

One such involving high-stakes gambling is executed with panache during a football game in New Orleans. Game over, it’s time to say adieu. Nick’s steely head rules his iron-clad heart and he quells Jess’s growing emotional attachment to return to doing what he does best. Solo.

But then life conspires to bring them together again in an elaborate con job  three years later in Buenos Aires, Argentina where race car billionaire Garriga (Santoro of 300 fame) hires Nicky to fob off his competitors  with a fake version of his car modifications.  No prizes for guessing what happens next. Focus is smart, slick and shallow. The Ray Coniff Singers cover of The Windmills Of Your Mind from “The Thomas Crown Affair” at the end credits just about sums up this crime caper from the producers of Nicholas Sparks adaptations.