Movie Review: “Focus” – Undoubtedly Clever

Written by Konstantine Xinos March 20, 2015

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“Focus” is the new film from the directorial duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. This glamorous crime flick has an excellent balance of charm, romance, and comedy to keep the viewer entertained through the entire film. Fans of the “Ocean’s” series are in for a treat.

“What about the big con?”

When petty con artist Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) attempts a con on expert confidence man Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith), he takes her under his wing to teach her his tricks of the trade. Nicky is part of a team of con artists with elaborate ways of stealing items and reselling them on the black market. Watching Spurgeon train Barrett is very interesting, as if you, the viewer are being taught the tricks of the trade yourself. Nicky and Jess soon kindle a relationship, but must go their separate ways after Nicky and his crew use Jess for a football championship weekend.

The 2nd half of Focus takes place in Buenos Aires three years after Nicky and Jess split up. Nicky is working a con with a wealthy, young motorsport-racing owner Rafael Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro). Nicky’s job goes smoothly… that is until he sees Jess on the arm of Garriga.

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Will Smith is as charismatic as ever, playing in one of his best roles in recent memory. Margot Robbie shows even more promise and proves to be a legitimate actress with this outing. Most importantly, there is fantastic chemistry between the two. From there hilarious married-couple-like bickering to their steamy sex scenes, nothing seems forced and the two work very well together on screen despite a large age gap between the actors.

“I want in.”

Possibly the most enticing part, yet biggest drawback of this film, is the twists. Throughout the first half there are a series of small twists that pack a punch. These twists serve their purpose and are clever enough to trick even the most discerning audience. So long as the viewer can suspend disbelief and go along with the film (such as accepting that a knock-off Super Bowl is a high profile game), the viewer will appreciate the good twists that are essential to any film centered on a con man. However, the last twenty minutes of the film have enough twists to make the viewer say “really?” We already reached the perfect threshold for suspending our disbelief, but there are too many unbelievable twists by the end that simply don’t make sense or add to the movie. Even some of the twists by the end are inconsistent with scenes previously seen in the film.

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Another aspect I wasn’t too fond of was the pacing in the first act of the film. Within about fifteen minutes Spurgeon and Barrett are in bed together and she’s already beginning initiation into the group of con artists. This springboards the story, but seems far too premature and doesn’t let the characters develop before putting them into a love affair or recruiting Barrett to the team.

Despite all of this, the humor, extremely clever twists, and presence of Robbie and Smith do not in any way detract from an engaging, exciting, and overall fun film experience that “Focus” really is. Suspending disbelief for an hour and a half will provide the viewer with a rewarding flick that will keep them guessing throughout.

My Rating: 7.5/10

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