Will Smith rediscovers his charm and Margot Robbie makes her entry into the A-list in this twisty but uneven thriller.
We’ve seen Will Smith experience something of a middle age rut as of late. While stars such as George Clooney have embraced the next chapter of their career with turns of increasing maturity; Will Smith has been between his past and a new direction of sorts, wherever that may be. For some reason, the actor known for his trademark charm was jumping to the opposite end of the spectrum with roles in films like After Earth that traded vibrancy for blandness. Enter Focus, a flashy crime thriller about Smith’s veteran con man Nicky and his dangerous run in with a femme fatale from his past, played by Robbie.
Colourful, flashy and exuberant in all the ways one would expect a modern heist flick to be, Focus is a thoroughly entertaining and surprisingly funny film at least for the first 2 of the 3 acts. The beauty of every con movie is also its biggest fault- like a magic trick,the audience are fully aware that they are in for a twist at some point, a flourish at another and a foil always the obvious possibility. the task of the con movie is not to cover up how obvious, these elements are, but to make watching them unfold as enjoyable as possible. We all knew Oceans 11/13 were going to end in a big reveal of sorts, the process of getting to this end easily exchanged the predictability for enjoyment. In this respect, Focus disappoints and results on the ending feeling more inevitable than a welcome arrival.
Where Focus shines is in its indelible charm, embodied by its two leads. Suited and booted, there is something about Smith and Robbie striding out of flashy cars into whatever glitzy hotel they are perusing that will never get old. After Wolf of Wall Street, Robbie’s stock was always looking upwards, but here she takes her game to the next level. Being more than just a pretty face, Robbie carries just the right level of pizzazz and charisma that proves she can hang with the biggest of stars in Smith, who delivers a surprisingly wry performance that doesn’t forget the energy and allurement that turned him into a household name almost 20 years ago in Independence Day.
Offering little in the way of a fresh take on its genre, Focus is likely going to be the Now You See Me of this year-a film that’s at first smart until given a bit of reflective thought; destined to be consigned to bargain bins a few months after its DVD release. Not a knock on what the film itself does, but rather what it doesn’t do. One can only wonder where it could go if directors Glenn Ficara and John Requa took a few left field risks like they did in previous flick Crazy, Stupid, Love. Focus is no Rififi, but it never needed to be. It’s a sharp, entertaining way to spend 104 minutes.