Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Directed by Glenn Ficcara and John Requa.

2015. Rated R, 105 minutes.
Will Smith
Margot Robbie
Rodrigo Santoro
B.D. Wong
Gerald McRaney
Robert Taylor
Adrian Martinez
Dominic Fumusa
Brennan Brown
Griff Furst

Nicky (Smith) is the best pick-pocket and the overall smoothest con-man in the history of ever. If he touches your shoulder, his other hand is sliding your watch off your wrist. If he brushes you on the right, he's sliding your wallet out of your pocket on the left. He does this without you feeling a thing. Ladies, he can even cop a feel of the booty without you even knowing. Honestly, that happens. Jess (Robbie) doesn't know any of this when she meets him in a bar and tries to run a con on him. Basically, this is like me - over 40, standing well under six feet, challenging LeBron James to a game of one-on-one. Needless to say, it doesn't work out for her. However, she's cute and he likes boobs so he takes her under his wing. Those are his words, not mine. She then helps him and his team of crooks rob tourists out of over a million bucks over Super Bowl American Championship Game weekend in New Orleans. Of course, he also gets the drawers. Since love is just a distraction, when the weekend is over he gives her a cut and sends her on her way. Tears ensue. Fast forward three years, Nicky starts a job for Rafael (Santoro), a big time racecar driver who wants to fool his competitors in order to get an edge on the track. All is going well until Nicky finds out that Rafael's girlfriend is none other than...dun dun DUN...Jess. Twists and turns. Turns and twists.

For much of its runtime, Focus is a slick and interesting film. When it focuses on Nicky and his crew training on Jess and the subsequent operations they run, the movie is downright fun. No pun intended. Will Smith and Margot Robbie have an easy chemistry that floats us along, allows us to buy in to their relationship. The whole film is injected with a sense of humor that feels like a perfect fit for the rest of the story. The result is a movie that's easy to watch and goes by pretty quickly. The charm of its leading man is a major plus, here. It's not one of Smith's best performances, but it's not a bad one. He's just one of those guys who is just a movie star. Even though his career has waned, as of late, he still has that "it" factor that compels us to watch him. Robbie manages to keep up, and as mentioned, works well with him. Still, she's clearly in his shadow whenever they share the screen which is all but just a few of her scenes. We also get strong supporting work from the rest of the cast. The two standouts are Rodrigo Santoro as Rafael and Andrian Martinez as Farhad, one of Nicky's cronies. Santoro's scenes with Smith are some of the movie's best due to Santoro's simmering intensity. Martinez handles much of the comic-relief and does a very nice job of it.

Focus runs into trouble because the story crumbles as it goes along. It keeps trying to make the situation for our heroes more and more unbearable, but forgets to work on an even remotely plausible way out. Instead, it relies on the most ridiculous plan of all time to work out its plot. It's a plan we don't learn, but watch unfold. Then we simply shake our heads and wonder who the hell would ever try this, and why. In a lesser movie, this wouldn't be so damning. However, this has the potential to be something more. In fact, the asinine ending follows one of the smartest takes on an action movie trope I've ever seen. Judging by how many times the late-great Roger Ebert referenced it in reviews over the years, one of his pet peeves is characters purposely crashing an automobile as a means to an end. He rightly questioned the ability of the person doing this to know who would be affected by this. Focus has a brilliant answer for him. Then it follows that with something so far beyond idiotic it's tough to believe it happened in the same movie.

The effect of wasted potential is tough to overcome. What starts off great and slowly descends before crashing and burning is a bigger disappointment than that which starts at the bottom and loiters there. In a nutshell, that's the issue with Focus. The charm of Smith, and the fun, zippy writing that guides us through the early parts of the film give way to a movie that's grasping at straws to find a suitable, and hopefully spectacular conclusion. It is a jolt when it happens, I'll grant it that. However, it's a really long way from suitable. If you're the type that can overlook the ending, or just see nothing wrong with it, then you'll enjoy this one a great deal and not understand what I'm moaning about. The rest of us might feel like we've just had the carpet pulled out from beneath us.


  1. Nice review! I'm not in any rush to see this, but I'll eventually get around to it.

  2. "Wasted potential" is exactly the review I'd have written. Margo Robbie is awesome, but grossly underused. Will Smith looks bored by it all, TBH.

  3. I actually liked this movie but agree with your point about wasted potential. I liked seeing Smith back in a charismatic role after the lifeless Cypher Rage of After Earth. Margot Robbie also did a great job and I thought she more than keeps up with Smith, there are points where she outright steals scenes. The ending was the worst thing about this movie. I like a good bait and switch as much as the next person but switching to something that ridiculous is just stupid. Good review overall.

    1. After Earth. Ugh.

      Focus isn't a "bad" movie because it is enjoyable for much of its runtime. Then, that ending happens. Beyond stupid.

  4. Wow. We're pretty much about even on this one.

    I likeep Smith, The Movie Star, but I'm still surprised this wasn't better. At times, it's sooooo entertaining, but the end is just too damn ridiculous.

    Putting on a neckbrace before was a slick, if not ridiculous, move.

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