111 min - Drama
Review: Matt Mungle
Most people like a good con game. On film. No one wants to be
on the receiving end but fictionally it is fun to watch. Hollywood
has the ability to make hustlers beautiful and suave. FOCUS causes
us to applaud them even though they are crooks. When they show
up on the news looking plain and rat like we boo and hiss. But
put them in tailored suits and armani glasses and we swoon. "Here."
We say. "Take my wallet, please."
Nicky (Will Smith) is a 3rd generation hustler who is tops in
the game. He runs a high end snatch and grab racket that uses
the best criminals with a focused touch. When an up and comer
named Jess (Margot Robbie) wants him to teach her the tricks of
the trade Nicky is reluctant. Yet he can't help but recognize
her skills; as unrefined as they are. Years later when he is working
a job she shows up and throws him off his game. The question is
whether or not he can stay focused long enough to get it done.
The writing isn't unique but still creative enough to carry 104
minutes. Smith encases his character with a sure footed swagger
that is the right amount of large. He is vulnerable and has weaknesses
which makes him human. The way he explains his craft and carries
out the jobs is believable. Often films like this have so many
implausible circumstances and the players always seem to have
just the right ability for each moment. Nicky is believable. You
have no reason to doubt that he can do what he does.
Robbie is a perfect femme-fatale. You never know if she is bluffing.
Is she playing Nicky? That is always the nagging thought in your
mind that lingers through out and keeps you riveted. She is sexy
and manipulative. A deadly combination in the con world. The rest
of the supporting cast put this on the same shelf as Oceans 11
and the like. Adrian Martinez is the hilarious wing man who delivers
crude sexism in an unapologetic way. Rodrigo Santoro is the millionaire
business man in need of Nicky's services. And BD Wong is fantastic
in the few moments he is on screen. The interaction between him
and Nicky is one of the best in the film.
The film falls short in that it tries to be too pretty. The soft
lighting and over extended shots of Nicky and Jess walking or
standing or sitting or in bed come across more like an over polished
perfume commercial. Like the con artists in the movie, the film
makers are trying to take our focus off of the truth - these people
steal from innocent victims- so that we want to watch them do
FOCUS is rated R for language, some sexual content and brief
violence. It is an adult film with adult themes. Though not perfect
or ground breaking it is a fun time at the theater. Smith does
what he always does, own his character, and he and Robbie move
well together. I give it 3.5 out of 5 taps on the shoulder. Not
great but not horrible either.