Smith a bit too focused in light grifter feature
By Bob Bloom
The fun aspect of watching movies about con men and women is that you never know who is really doing what to whom.
And since you can’t trust what you see, it makes the movie even intriguing as you strain for clues about what is actually going on.
That about describes the substance of “Focus,” in which Will Smith plays Nicky, a big-time grifter who lies as easily as taking a breath.
Things are going fine for Nicky until he meets Jess (Margot Robbie), a stunning blonde who also happens to be a con artist — but not a very good one.
Nicky is smitten with Jess and reunites with her in New Orleans, where she assists in the scams his crew is running during Super Bowl week.
“Focus” is an imperfect caper feature. Some plot points don’t make sense and go unexplained, while others are telegraphed as if by Western Union.
But the film is such a fluffy confection that you overlook its flaws and simply sit back and go along for the ride.
“Focus” has a flippant air to it, as if defying you to take it seriously.
Smith, unfortunately, appears to be taking the entire enterprise too seriously. His character may be all businesslike, but it wouldn’t have hurt if he had smiled once in a while.
Robbie, so memorable in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” provides the lighter touch that is more in tune with the overall tenor of the movie.
Why her character seems to fall hard for Nicky is never made clear. Yes, he’s smart and can exude charm when necessary, but overall, he lacks fire.
Which brings us to the main problem of “Focus”: John Requa and Glenn Ficarra, the writers-directors, try to mesh a love story with a caper film and come up a bit short on both accounts.
The pair, who made the lovely “Stupid Crazy Love,” cannot find a consistent tone for their film. One minute we’re following Nicky as he works a scam at a racing event in Buenos Aires. The next, we are eavesdropping as he and Jess exchange longing glances.
None of these criticisms should deter you from seeing “Focus.” It is an enjoyable feature with some wonderful set pieces, especially a sequence set in the streets of New Orleans where we watch Nicky’s crew of pickpockets ply their trade.
“Focus” will make a nice date movie because it features good-looking people, scenic locations and a story that may keep you guessing — at least for a little while.
Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. His reviews appear at Reel Bob (reelbob.com) and The Film Yap (filmyap.com). He also reviews Blu-rays and DVDs. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ReelBobBloom. Other reviews by Bloom can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.
2 ½ stars out of 4
(R), language, sexual situations, violence
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