Film Review: Focus

by Gordon Elgart on February 27, 2015

A smooth, fun star vehicle for Will Smith and Margot Robbie

Will Smith and Margot Robbie in Focus

Will Smith and Margot Robbie in Focus

I love a good con man movie. My favorites are The Sting, The Spanish Prisoner, House of Games, and Diggstown. Each of these movies features both the players in the film being conned as well as the audience. Focus doesn’t enter the realm of classic cinema, but it’s stylish, fun, and full of joyous reveals. Everything else I’m about to say is unnecessary exposition. Who wants to know the details of a good con?

Will Smith stars as Nicky, a con man from a family con artists, and the film starts as he’s pretending to be a famous chef to get a table for one at a fancy restaurant. There, he meets Margot Robbie as Jess, who is leaving behind her very drunk date, looking for someone better to spend her time with. They spend their evening together over dinner and wine, they end up in her hotel room, and BAM! An angry husband comes in, pointing a gun at Will Smith. He coolly explains that he’s on to their con, and tells them how to do it better in the future. An annoyed and curious Robbie follows Smith outside, and he schools her on the art of pickpocketing. This impresses her enough that she follows Smith down to New Orleans for a big fake Super Bowl between two fake football teams, where is running a network of street criminals. She becomes his “intern.” The rest is secret, for fear of ruining the fun for you.

What makes this work is the breezy confidence of Will Smith. When he says “I can convince anyone of anything,” you do believe him. Margot Robbie plays an excellent foil, who can fall for his charms while using her own on Smith. The two of them work surprising well together, and also along with Adrian Martinez, who plays Smith’s computer expert. The three of them share a quick wit with each other that all three of them sell very well. There’s no weakness in the cast, which also features Gerald McRaney as a skeptical advisor to a client of Smith’s, and B.D. Wong as a Chinese gambler who takes advantage of Will Smith’s predilection for gambling a bit too much.

Glenn Ficara and John Recqua share writing and directing duties here, and it’s clear they’ve watched their DVD of Out of Sight more than you have. From the score to the cinematography to the script, there’s a prestige feel to the whole operation, so even when the story gets a little convoluted, and the script gives one-too-many odd moments, you’ll definitely find yourself willing to forgive. This is an entertaining addition to the con man genre, with at least two true applause moments, and it’s definitely worth your time.

Focus opens in theaters today.

 

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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