‘Focus’ Review: Will's Still Got It
To get muddled up into how everything in works takes away some of the allure. It’s pretty well thought out and the “jobs” are well thought out, even though a heavy suspension of disbelief is required to believe the operation our main characters are pulling off actually works. Focus follows its title by truly focusing on the main two characters, Nicky (Will Smith) and Jess (Margot Robbie). Nicky is an expert con man, who by chance brings Jess into his large scale con operation. Jess is a natural talent, but due to their inevitable romantic entanglement, Nicky cuts Jess off because “there’s no room for heart in this game”. Highly coincidental circumstances lead to them meeting again three years later as one last heist has some unforeseen complications.
Smith and Robbie have a remarkable chemistry in which every scene they share together (which is a good portion of the film) is absolutely enrapturing. Both characters have grown up living a life of deceit, and even as a viewer, I could never really tell when the truth was being told. Their first major job together is at the “Big Game” (the NFL owns the Super Bowl trademark) and contains an impressive scene that ratchets up the tension as the stakes are escalated higher and higher in an absurd gambling match between Nicky and an eccentric Asian billionaire. It’s the moments like this, when a single character’s mannerisms and interactions are brought into the forefront that Focus excels. The details are pertinent only to make what we've experienced on the screen a plausible scenario, but the quickening of your heartbeat as Nicky seemingly gambles away everything our “heroes” are working towards is what kept me glued to the screen. These characters are fascinating because we don’t know what to make of them. Nicky is ostensibly a good guy, relatively speaking, but there’s something else lurking underneath.
Robbie continues her fantastic work from The Wolf of Wall Street and shows impressive chops, while easily matching Nicky’s experience and guile with her own innocence and desperation. The supporting cast isn’t particularly memorable aside Adrian Martinez’s turn as the least believable Iranian ever. The story strains itself as it reaches its climax, adding obstacles that don’t need to be there, yet at the same time, things are too convenient in the film. Jess happens to be at the same bar Nicky is at the beginning of the film, and then three years later, romantically entangled with his European employer? That’s the movie logic you have to forgive to fully immerse yourself in the film.
Ultimately, despite some narrative shortcomings, Focus is a pleasure to watch, and it’s a relief to see Will Smith dominate the silver screen after the last few years of pushing Jaden’s career of his own. While not an amazing film, Focus is a surprisingly intimate movie that leaves you satisfied.
Final Say: Watch It