Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, BD Wong, Adrian Martinez, Gerald McRaney, Brennan Brown
Rated: R (language, some sexual content and brief violence)
In the midst of veteran con man Nicky’s latest scheme, a woman from his past – now an accomplished femme fatale – shows up and throws his plans for a loop.
By Matt Greene
Focus isn’t nearly as cool as it thinks. Outside moments of decent humor-based dialogue and Soderbergh-light flourishes of style, it’s basically one long plot exposition…and with so much over-talking, the story shouldn’t be so blurry. At least give us some intriguing characters to pull us through, but even they are hard to grasp onto here. So although it has lulling entertainment value at points, mostly Focus is unspectacular and just kinda boring.
Smith plays a successful conman who runs into trouble as he breaks his own code of never losing focus on the job at hand, falling for his new femme-fatale apprentice. This could’ve been an Ocean’s Eleven-style caper flick, if only the sense of team and mission drove the film. Instead, it seems much more interested in the corny, boring, and completely unconvincing romance between a desperate Smith and an annoying Robbie. We’re asked to be invested in this cloying courtship when we are never convinced there is anything to really get behind. It should’ve just stayed in the caper-con-thriller lane. Unfortunately, just like Smith’s character suffers as his focus shifts from crime to romance, so does the movie’s quality.
I’m someone who’s rooting for Smith to return to his glory days of box-office domination. I even think he’s the right guy to play a conman: easy to root for even when being bad. His charm almost makes this a passable Saturday morning channel-surfing session choice. But despite the smart casting, great soundtrack, and sporadic moments of fun, Focus too often loses that focus in over-seriousness and bad romance.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
By Cole Schneider
Will Smith is still an event, right? Its been a while since he’s really done anything noteworthy, much less spectacular. “Focus” presents him with a character he can embrace, but for many reasons (including some self-induced) the film never really affords him the chance to make this his big re-entry into Hollywood. “Focus” follows Smith’s conman as he meets and trains a woman he falls for before something abrupt happens halfway through. The second half of the film explores the weaknesses of his character. Sort of.
“Focus” fails in almost every aspect of filmmaking, generally in the worst way possible–desperate over-reaching. Its script isn’t half as clever as it thinks it is. Its cinematography is borderline offensive in the way it communicates its message with such blunt determination. Its editing is slick to be sure, but it feels compelled to remind us of its slickness without end. Its lead, Will Smith, has the opposite problem. The charismatic superstar is given a role he should revel in, but he downplays his strengths as an actor so much that his character becomes a relative contradiction: someone full of life and intrigue that we never see.
Smith’s co-star Margot Robbie is great, but I hope she hasn’t been typecast after her brilliant role in 2013’s “The Wolf of Wall Street”. At least it’s nice to see Hollywood embrace an interracial relationship. Though, for all the sparks that are supposed to be flying in “Focus”, there isn’t any real sexiness anywhere, and for all the narrative turns it never feels like it’s headed in any particular direction.
Rating: 1 out of 5 stars