Movies surrounding con people can always be tricky, on one hand artists do want to explore these criminals as characters and people, but also want to have a little fun in showing off their “craft”. This can lead to a tightrope walk to strike that perfect chord between character study and genre fun. Many con movies succeed by landing on on side of the other, Ocean’s Eleven was more fun than study, The Thomas Crown Affair sought more character and coolness and both have remained beacons of this genre because of it.
For Focus however, it straddles the line between both, and adds maybe too many twists and turns that can give the audience fatigue, but thanks to a pair of electric, cool as ice and committed performances from stars Will Smith and Margot Robbie, also helped by great looking production values, Focus is a better than average crime film.
Nicky (Will Smith) is a con man living in New York on the lives of others (the movie makes no attempt to hide his true profession) when one night he runs into novice con-woman Jess (Margot Robbie) after tearing apart her little operation (and how unprepared and incompetent it was!). Soon the ambitious Jess is taken under Nicky’s wing on a business trip to New Orleans, where after the scores are tallied they go their separate ways. Three years later however, their paths cross again, and the con and more is on one more time…
These kind of movies always need good performances form their leads, and Focus definitely gets that from its two stars Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Both of them shine on their own, which is old hat for Smith after years as a matinee idol and up and comer Robbie, but together their chemistry makes the movie pop. They are both completely capable of carrying the movie on their own, but there are also some great smaller characters played by Adrian Martinez, BD Wong and Gerald McRaney that add some flavor to the picture.
The directon of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa is good. The film itself is very stylish and was well paced. The scenes a full of vibrant color and even the shots in the cold New York winter look marvelous. It snows for most of the New York scenes and for someone who has seen more than their fair share of it this winter it look marvelous. There are a few times when they try to make a frame go out of focus (no pun intended) to add an effect but it goes for a little too long for my taste. Overall though, it’s good work.
Their script is also a little flawed but overall pretty good. It perfectly blends humor, danger, and romance with equal glee and ease and makes for a good film. However, with the con man genre, there are obviously big twists that are punctuated with smaller twists that sometimes become to much that begin to fatigue the audience, and makes some of the larger twists of the end lose their impact. One of the best turns happens earl in the film at this film’s version of the Super Bowl and partially what made it a great scene was that the audience was keyed into it, and not worn down yet by small, throwaway twists and cons. Overall though, a good script.
Essentially Focus is a well shot, well acted, and written well enough con-man movie that is great to end winter with. It is a movie that s efintely worth your time and can be a good way to enjoy a night at the theater. Check this one out.
Focus is out now nationwide in theaters.