‘Focus’ Movie Review – An Appealing Affair
Sometimes movies come around that, even after you watch them, seem like they should be movies you don’t like. There are some underwhelming performances, plot holes, or the usual things that plague “bad” movies. However, sometimes these same movies have redeeming qualities, like is the case in Glen Ficarra and John Requa’s (Crazy, Stupid, Love) Focus, that make the film much more appealing. With all its holes, Focus is still a movie with enough going for it.
As for plot, the movie follows experienced con man, Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith), and his beautiful apprentice, Jess (Margot Robbie), as they navigate through the world of petty theft. A good portion of the opening act takes place in New Orleans at “The Big Game” (Warner Brother’s way of avoiding trademarks like the Super Bowl) as they playfully steal literally millions of dollars.
With two beautiful people like Will Smith and Margot Robbie, of course the movie eventually moves into more of a love story than a con story. I don’t fault the film for taking this route and it actually makes for an interesting plot turn when things start to unravel. These events then set up what turns out to be a very disjointed plot that changes time and place quite a bit.
Focus has an inherent “out” when it comes to its plot because of the con aspect of the story. Nothing is as it seems and they can essentially hit the “undo” button on any of their character’s actions. This comes into account multiple times throughout the film and can easily be considered a problem the film has to overcome.
Personally, these little sacrifices are worth it and a large reason why involves the two leads and their relationship. There are some trite, cliche moments but they work themselves out. I’m not generally a fan of Will Smith but he’s more than half-way decent in a more conflicted role than I expected.
Robbie is unfortunately underutilized (especially given her acting abilities) but makes the best of her time onscreen. There’s a little too much “dumb blonde” to her character but, again, the film’s premise makes it inherently tough to trust anyone…making everyone’s characters just that much more interesting.
Robbie’s damsel-in-distress character is just part of the reason Focus is far from a polished masterpiece. There are some far-fetched moments in the film – especially when the crew meets a notorious gambling addict – that knocks the film down a bit. There’s also a lot packed into the final act that makes it a little much.
Still, Ficarra and Requa bring a couple fiery characters onto the screen in a movie that should have the same likability as Crazy, Stupid, Love. If I’m going to keep comparing Focus to other movies, I think it’s perfectly summed up by saying its exactly what Now You See Me should’ve been. It’s far less disappointing and just as entertaining.
Focus certainly won’t go down as one of the best films of the year, but it should be considered a surprise hit. With a premise that could’ve easily turned into a sappy rom-com with some thinly-veiled sleight-of-hand, writers and directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa take a different, if perhaps a little dubious, approach. It’s a film worth at least giving a fair shake.