Focus Feb27

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Focus

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.

focus2Hollywood 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 more.

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.

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