Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Recqua got almost everything right in their con-man thriller Focus, which opens Friday (Feb. 27) on screens locally and nationwide.
They got that sensual mood and look down. They have a cool vibe that matches those other features. They have a story that on its surface works and shows a couple of surprises for which they deserve credit considering they wrote it.
They also hired superior leads in Will Smith (when he’s not doing alleged high concept science fiction flicks, that is) and still relative newcomer Margot Robbie who made a memorable splash last year in as Leonardo DiCaprio’s fiery spouse in The Wolf of Wall Street.
And it’s those two leads that throw Focus off its game. Apart, their pairing had to sound intriguing. In deed, however, it’s far from the case.
For those looking for a spark between the two, better to re-watch Casablanca to see what chemistry is all about. More than anything their alleged on-screen romance feels forced and, personally, I just couldn’t feel it. That’s a flaw with the script in that they don’t really write in the all-consuming passion that Nicky (Smith) and Jess (Robbie) allegedly possess.
In fact the far more interesting stuff involves Nicky’s life as a thief/con-man. He’s working on his latest job when he meets Jess and she convinces him to allow her to join his crew. Every gang of merry thieves can use a beautiful woman helping them along, right?
Of course they can. And Nicky brings her aboard and they make a ton of cash as a group the week of a championship football game in New Orleans. And Jess and Nicky? Lovers. They develop an alleged intense relationship.
Except Nicky keeps it all business after lifting her heart. Despite that credo of “it’s just business,” several years later as he’s working a con he sees Jess once again and it turns out he was more smitten than he ever knew. That little realization threatens to upend the job he’s currently enmeshed.
Alone Smith exudes the cool fans have come to expect of his work on the screen. He’s the wiseass with the intelligence to always come out on top. He’s charming at times, playful at others and still possesses an aura of danger about him.
Viewers can’t help but be flabbergasted by Robbie and her beauty. Yes, that’s sexist, but she can be breathtaking and she showed her skills in Wolf. Her role as Jess is significantly lighter than that one and she pulls it off.
Directors Ficarra and Recqua give audiences an intriguing thriller. They have to be a shocked as anyone what their leads have the chemistry of a rock meeting water.
Director: Glenn Ficarra and John Recqua
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Gerald McRaney, Olivier Martinez
Studio: Warner Bros.
Rated: Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence
Running time: 104 minutes
George’s rating: 2.5-of-5 stars
Check for theaters and showtimes at Atlas Cinemas, Cleveland Cinemas, Fandango.com and MovieTickets.com