Nicky (Smith) is a third generation con artist. Jess (Robbie) is down on her luck with only two choices left, to be a hustler or a hooker. Through a chance meeting (or is it) the two meet up and he takes her on as his apprentice.
I got to hand it to Will Smith, he takes both success and failure like a pro so I don’t think he will be too bummed about his latest effort. That’s not to say that Focus is a complete disaster, it just doesn’t have anything new. On the one hand, it can be considered a character study between its two leads with some romance thrown into the mix, on the other a fun little ride with no actual pay off, or real suspense for that matter.
Smith’s Nicky is the strong silent type. There are hints of a darker side but that never comes to fruition. He briefly talks about his troubled past where his own father had to kill Smith’s grandfather because, hey thieves kill. For the most part, he’s serious and solemn but it’s safe to say that Smith learnt his lesson and doesn’t go full bore-mode as he did in After Earth. Still, oddly enough for the hugely charismatic actor some of the intentional jokes just aren’t that funny. Many times the cinema was left in silence with only a few sniggers here and there.
Robbie on the other hand is a delight and an exciting new talent. Making her debut opposite Leo in Wolf of Wall Street as his trophy wife, here she holds her own against Smith. Not that they are competing, the two do have great chemistry. And that is where the movie excels, the characters, their interactions and performances are superbly written as well as acted. Well, the main two at least. In the first act/half we’re taken into Nicky’s world via Jess. Through Smith’s exposition, some neat cinematography and slick editing we’re shown how his small time band of thieves work. They don’t do big casinos or banks but work on the street. To talk about the crew is pointless since after the 45 minute mark they never ever return again except for Adrian Martinez as Farhad, the tubby comedy sidekick.
The villains on the other hand, Rodrigo Santoro’s F1 billionaire Garriga doesn’t stand out much. He has a henchman similar to Breaking Bad’s Mike (McRaney) who is given some of the best dialogue about “kids these days.” There’s a third henchman who has one of the best intros I have seen only to disappear in the next scene. While watching the film I got the sense that maybe there were rewrites or something going on because either scenes didn’t add up or just didn’t go anywhere.
So, is this a complete failure? The review does focus (no pun) on the negative yes but there are some saving graces. The central performances cannot be ignored, the direction from Glenn Ficarra and John Requa is spot on, some beautiful locales, a lot of neon lit sets, some lively cinematography by Xavier Grobet, making this an enjoyable little pic.
Sadly though that’s all it has to it, the exposition/heist scenes have been done god knows how many times in the past ten years. There isn’t much of a plot, characters motives are questionable, will they/wont they-are they/aren’t they, are juggled around a lot which all builds up to a sort of anti-climax.
The Verdict :
Usually, I am first in line to fully support a new and original flick rather than the ever tiresome tidal wave of reboots/prequels/sequels etc. Sadly though Focus fails to give us anything fresh and original. Its only saving graces are the two central performances, some slick cinematography and edits here and there but that’s basically it, everything else, seen before. One thing this movie has done is shown me that both Smith and Robbie have great chemistry together which makes me even more eager to see Suicide Squad.
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adrian Martinez, Gerald McRaney
Running Time: 104 minutes
Release Date: 27th February 2015