February 25, 2015

Review: Losing 'Focus' – Will Smith Drops the Con

Will Smith Margot Robbie | Focus

The problem with con man films is the filmmakers behind them sometimes are unable to resist conning the audience along with its characters. Will Smith and Margot Robbie make for a very appealing pair of professional grifters and when they inevitably part ways, we struggle to figure out who is conning who. The ambiguously titled Focus is sly and fun, but writers/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa choose too many divergent paths, trying both to entertain and fool you, proving their cleverness along the way.

Focus is really two films where the first half, the setup and playful con you see coming, is by far the more satisfying portion, bursting with humour, style, flair, and substance where the second half lack enough of these elements. The setup and stakes only matter because Smith is so charming and fetching on the screen as Robbie is sparkling and smooth. This back and forth as the pair try to out con and manipulate each other to score an unknown jackpot is amusing until we lose sight of what the con actually is.

Unfortunately, Focus is far too focused on its own self-awareness and ability to con its audience where they never give you the tools to solve the con. You are detached and the third act twists and turns do not add up with the long con story of the first two-thirds of the film. However, its breezy, amusing nature and stylish direction make for an enjoyable package. Thieves deceiving each other and learning to trust or fall in love is a promising yet problematic story.

Focus is slickly made and executed full of fun scenes and charming performances when it's not too focused on the mechanics of the plot always trying to trick you. It's far too surface level style without the substance its two stars bleed to sell you on. It's fun in the moment, full of well choreographed scenes of solid entertainment, and gets progressively less meaningful or lasting as you leave the parallel acting performances.

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