Focus (2015)

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It can’t be denied that this cocktail of romance, heist thriller and black comedy all looks glossy and stylish but there’s a serious stumbling block in the absence of gritty substance. The whole con team angle is ripe for the picking but it’s played around with mildly at best and the long con is a drippy pay-off to wait for.

A savvy and well trained con artist named Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) becomes romantically entangled with the promising talent of Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie). After training and working superbly well together, Nicky tries his hand at another game but a temper fuelled racing driver and Jess’ return could knock Nicky’s magic.

This film is a weird jumble of ideas, one minute it aims and scores quite successfully at the dark thriller and then, whoosh, people are riffing and making jokes turning the scene into a jarring comedy play of words and egos. John Requa and Glenn Ficarra are the figures behind the script and though every now and then they conjure up some interesting ideas, in the grand scheme of things, this movie doesn’t pull them through. Perhaps if it stuck with one genre stronger consistently the film could have benefited but in general the con is a quite lame one to sit through and the Oceans team have no concerns.

Xavier Perez Grobet can certainly present the locations necessary. He captures New Orleans and Buenos Aires in a slick photographic light, giving the backdrops a photo-shoot quality, making the places Nicky and Jess go to pop more than they may have done before. It’s almost as if the characters are stepping through travel catalogs thanks to Grobet’s cinematography.

Maybe Ficarra and Requa tackling directing roles as well as writer calls is an explanation for the film not being as great as it could have been, because honestly there is potential in this film, it has glimmers of real showmanship, the chemistry is there from time to time, it looks great and the first half of the film is a neat thing. I honestly believe they think they were being cleverer than the feature actually is. There’s too many twists or attempts at good turns in the plot and unlike the drip feeding of clues and con moves in the BBC show ‘Hustle’, which I adored, this one reveals things with no prior knowledge, going back over things making the con seem more manufactured and movie-like, taking you out of the film.

The music delivered by Nick Urata, is like a score of what you’d expect to hear if you were invited to a sleek opening night function with the biggest and brightest. It sizzles away almost, adding the glamour to the film. Also a clever reference and utilisation of a Rolling Stones tune works nicely, but that’s all I shall say.

Will Smith possesses that charm and cocky swagger needed for the character and though I found him the less interesting of the characters, Smith gave him enough emotion in stages to make him more human. As if perfectly flicking a watch off a passer by he gives Nicky this ooze of confidence and know-how that makes him believable as a con artist even if the editing of his training scene cuts too much, losing the flow needed to sell it properly. Margot Robbie is a pure stunning actress and her role as Jess was more interesting, I would have liked to know more about her as opposed to the generic male orientated focus on Nicky. She has a beaming smile that welcomes you in and can flip that masterfully, when broken by developments. She’s certainly an engaging and gorgeous talent to keep an eye on and Harley Quinn is exciting.

Appearing like a shiny article from Esquire magazine, this film is hot and glamorous but is in total a silly unbelievable series of events that leave Robbie and Smith caught up in a misfired movie. Watch Hustle instead.

5.5/10

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