“FOCUS” (Film Review & Trailer)

FOCUS poster


Moderately out of control and highly convoluted the film Focus takes its turn at the box-off. While the stars Will Smith and Margot Robbie are nice to look at their performances are weak and off the mark in this offbeat comedy crime drama that never delivers. Maybe it’s the predictability coupled with obvious misdirection that gives the feel of a tall tale without a good punchline. But whatever it is, it doesn’t work. Maybe it needed a little more energy on the part of the actors or had a lack of execution by the Directors.

When it comes to deception and sleight of hand Jess (Margot Robbie) fits right in with master con man Nicky (Will Smith). So much so that after one day on the job during a snatch, he offers her a full time position in his upcoming sting. She’s a sharp dresser and has a body to match, but not all of the persons in the operation are quick to fall for her “attractive” skills. It’s not so much that Nicky picked her up in a bar while she was trying to scam him, it’s more about the boss keeping his ‘focus’ and an eye on the prize. When the situation involving their biggest heist ever attempted gets dicey, the crew starts to wonder if romance may be distracting Nicky’s edge.

Nicky (Will Smith) and Jess (Margot Robbie)  get box seats for a football game

Nicky (Will Smith) and Jess (Margot Robbie) get box seats for a football game

The film spools out in good fashion, gets situational often and keeps the audience guessing on where this is all going. Directors by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa who also wrote the script seem to be placing their actors in position and then letting them ad lib along with a few lines. The cons the team pulls off are nearly impossible, even for the brightest of hustlers. It’s Ficarra and Requa’s “Crazy Stupid Love” meets “Bad Santa”, only in this film, there’s no chemistry in the romance and at least Bad Santa’s con was possible.

Do not expect a lot out of Will Smith as the writers make his character this nonchalant bon vivant who’s supposedly the world’s best con artist. I’m actually disappointed in Smith’s performance much like his bland acting in Men in Black 3. His romantic chemistry with Robbie (as Jess) runs hot and cold (mostly cold) and even when there’s an intimate scene it looks like Smith’s done before it begins. Unfortunately, Margot Robbie is either miscast or just reading lines for a paycheck, because there’s hardly any realistic performance of her character coming off the screen.

Jess (Robbie) sets up a sting

Jess (Robbie) sets up a sting

The whole film is problematic and implausible. The costuming of Margot Robbie in a black swimsuit is so horrible and even embarrassing you could see her try and hide herself from the camera during the pool scene. The thievery on the streets in the French Quarter New Orleans pre-football game is poorly choreographed showing Jess and other members of the gang easily stealing wallets, watches and jewelry. In real life they would have easily been detected.

The two big scams get very predictable. In the first, even though B.D. Wong gives an excellent performance as wealthy Liyuan to make the scam seem possible, the odds of the ploy working no matter how they set it up are off the chart. The second big con gets very complicated. The filmmakers expect the audience to know about racing cars and what makes them go fast. If you lose track of what’s going on and don’t understand car design, you may miss the reason why their con could work.

Focus has been rated R by the MPAA for language, some sexual content and brief violence. The film has a chance to make some decent box-office dollars due to Will Smith’s following. Also since the only film that can affect their run is Fifty Shades of Grey, that adult phenomenon has already run out of gas. The cost of the film is around $50 million, but the weekend should bring in at least $25 million from Smith fans.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Wait for the Blu-ray, Cable or VOD. (D)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adrian Martinez, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro, and B.D. Wong
Written and Directed by: Glenn Ficarra & John Requa
Genre: Crime, Comedy/Drama
MPAA Rating: R for language, some sexual content and brief violence
Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min
Release Date: February 27, 2015
Distributed by: Warner Brothers

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