Focus Movie Review
With Will Smith looking to rebound after the embarrassment that was After Earth, you think he would have chosen a project that is more than half complete. Focus is a sexy, simmering con job thriller that starts off strong--and then unravels to a shocking degree halfway through.
Smith plays Nicky, a smart and suave con man who takes the beautiful Margot Robbie (who will also co-star with him in the upcoming Suicide Squad) under his wing. As their personal relationship develops, so does their ability to make big money, culminating in a huge score.
All of this is well and good. Smith is as charismatic as always, a reminder that he is one big project away from regaining his former glory as box office king. He’s fun to watch and easy to like, even when he’s ripping off people left and right. Robbie is great as well. More importantly, the story is enjoyable, punctuated by a big mid-stride surprise that makes you think the film is going one way when in fact it’s going another. The sports gambling scene in question is pretty damn satisfying.
And then, amazingly, Focus goes off the rails like few movies do.
It’s as if writing/directing duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa literally wrote half a good movie and then decided to wing the second half. Even Will Smith looks lost and confused at times, coughing out awkward dialogue as if he’s in a bad romantic comedy. And he sort of is.
Focus loses its focus--it’s supposed to be a con man flick--and becomes a painful exercise in bad romantic drama, with Robbie and Smith’s characters attempting to work out something between them. Nothing else really matters, and I frankly don’t recall anything else that happens in the second half of the movie--there are some bad guys, there’s a con job, but with an unremarkable and unintimidating villain (Rodrigo Santoro) and awful plotting, the specifics don’t matter.
And for a con job movie, the specifics should.
Focus is an ironically titled movie given how suddenly and devastatingly it does just the opposite. A decent movie until it isn’t, Focus is one that even a likable pairing of Will Smith and Margot Robbie can’t save.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.