Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro
Genre: Crime/ Drama
Nicky (Smith) is a veteran conman whose self-assurance and ability to stay ‘focussed’ on the job at hand are potentially compromised by him taking Jess (Robbie) under his wing. To make sure the feelings he develops for her do not make him lose ‘focus’, Nicky ends their relationship and they go their separate ways. However, three years later when Nicky is taking part in an extremely dangerous scam, the surprise arrival of Jess provides an increasing struggle to maintain his ‘focus’, when losing his ‘focus’ may cost him his life.
Well, at least Will Smith has decided to not make films with son Jayden anymore, and so after the abysmal After Earth playing a serious (and supporting) character he makes his return to playing the leading man. Well, no one does likeable charismatic arrogance like Will Smith and Focus certainly is a vehicle perfect for him with its charming and stoic con-man protagonist at the heart of its narrative.
Unfortunately Will Smith is pretty much the only good thing about Focus; Smith is effortlessly likeable in a role that is admittedly perfect to his style of acting, but it is a film with as much substance as polystyrene, and is just as bland. Writer/ Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa unfortunately seem completely oblivious to this and deliver the film’s patchy two-part narrative with deluded stylistic confidence.
The film has plenty of slick aerial shots of cities and snappy editing, and there is plenty of Will Smith’s Nicky smugly spouting out exposition to Margot Robbie’s Jess about how there is some seemingly really clever science to stealing off people that despite the fact it is still stealing, it is of course really cool. Barely surviving on Smith’s charisma and the slick editing, the film’s ethics is one of the many stumbling blocks, but as Nicky and his team hustle and steal off people in New Orleans the film is an extremely shallow, but at least just about watchable crime thriller. This culminates in what is by far the best moment of the film; a scene at an American football game involving BD Wong’s more than slightly bonkers businessman. Many have mentioned this scene, and it is the one moment in the film that actually contains genuine intrigue.
Once this admittedly decent scene is over the question is; what will the film do next? Well, it seems to be a question that Ficarra & Requa struggle to answer themselves as they suddenly realise that what they have made is nowhere near long enough to be classed as a feature length film. The Buenos Aires set second half is hideously dull and very badly written, with supposed twists and glaring plot holes which suggests that they made the film up as they went along, and no slick visuals and supposed ‘revelations’ can hide this fact. Either Ficarra and Requa are completely deluded and thinking they are making Oceans 11, or they think that a vast majority of the cinema going public are stupid, but either way the second half of Focus is so boring and so predictable with no sense of genuine danger or intrigue that it physically hurts to watch it at times.
The film’s finale provides revelations that can be seen way before they happen, and some do not even make any sense, completely tying the film up in knots. There are also attempts at comedy that are completely out of place and misjudged, just adding to the completely farcical slapdash nature of the entire narrative. It would be funny, but the film valiantly tries to deliver these ‘revelations’ with such stoic confidence that it is actually quite insulting at times and makes American Hustle look like a masterpiece (which it most certainly is not!).
Some style and absolutely no substance; despite the effortless charisma of Will Smith, Focus is an extremely dull and predictable crime thriller to be very much avoided, stealing millions never felt so boring!