Will Smith needs a hit. Since taking a break from acting between 2008 and 2012, Smith has returned to rest on his laurels in MIB3, and to appear in a pair of undisputed duds (After Earth and Winter’s Tale). It’s now been seven years since he was legend, 12 years since he was last a bad boy and almost 20 years since he saved the world from planet toasting aliens in Independence Day.
While Focus sees Smith as a bit of a bad boy, it’s a far cry from his heyday as the king of the blockbuster opening weekends. In Focus, Smith plays Nicky, a con-artist extraordinaire, who learned the ropes from his notorious father and now works with a tight crew to rip off (mostly) extremely rich people. When Margot Robbie’s Jess enters his life in a misguided attempt to con the king of the game, she asks to be taken under his wing in order to learn from the best. Hitting up the Superbowl in New Orleans, Jess and Nicky start to develop a romantic relationship, but then suddenly things go awry. The remainder of the film takes place three years later as Jess and Nicky are thrown together again as Nicky is involved in an operation to grab millions of Euros from a Buenos Aires Formula One game. Can the pair overcome their past to make it out with the millions?
Focus is yet another film full of cons, double crosses, dodgy dealings and twists. Will Smith and Margot Robbie are such an astonishingly attractive couple that it is hard to focus on their light fingered movements and the way the films writers/directors are manipulating and using misdirection to pull the wool over our eyes. It’s easy to just enjoy the surface shine of the film with New York, New Orleans and Buenos Aires all looking stunning as this ridiculously good looking pair breeze their way through the story.
It’s amazing to see how the other half live. Focus has rich revellers taking to the streets of New Orleans and having their valuables pilfered. It has gamblers in special seats high above the Superbowl game making million dollar bets and it has Formula One team owners living lives of luxury in the beautiful Buenos Aires. It also has some clever twists and turns, where the con is not quite as expected and the storytellers stay one step ahead of the audience.
However, it also has some ludicrous last minute revelations that don’t really add up when looked at too deeply. However, with Will Smith on smirking form, Margot Robbie looking sensational in a range of stunning outfits and a look into the how the wealthiest on this planet live, it’s hard to focus on the story, instead of just how damn fine everything looks in this movie.
Interestingly, sleight of hand expert Apollo Robbins was a consultant on the film. If you haven’t seen his TED talk about misdirection and controlling attention, go watch that to see how easily a real con artist can snatch your valuables. Focus doesn’t steal your money and offer nothing in return, but some of its sillier twists and turns may ultimately leave you feeling a little short-changed.
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