johnlink ranks FOCUS (2015)

This Will Smith movie just hit HBO, and I will always hit up a movie which is the center of a multi-circle Venn Diagram which includes Will Smith, Con Artists, and Witty Dialogue. This was the easiest choice I’ve made to watch a movie in awhile.


I watched FOCUS (2015) on 10.11.15. It was my first viewing of the film.

Whenever FOCUS feels like it is becoming predictable it does one of two things. Either, A) it takes a sharp turn or B) it tells its audience that they are suckers right away. The general story of this film has Nicky (Will Smith) running a team of con artists during the weekend of a faux Super Bowl (since this movie couldn’t get NFL rights). Nicky takes a young upstart under his wing, Jess (Margot Robbie). There are questions of romance, but also questions of trust.

From the beginning this seems like the same sort of movie as MATCHSTICK MEN in terms of the master/protege relationship. But it goes somewhere else, and then it takes it further, and then it takes a three year hiatus in its timeline. to show it really means what it says. After a masterfully written scene which includes our two heroes and an eccentric rich guy (BD Wong), the movie leaves New Orleans and the ‘big game’ for Buenos Aires and some Formula One racing.

The script of this movie, written by directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, is very smart. It avoids the cliches and pratfalls of the standard con movie. But, unfortunately, it does not a write a story interesting enough for its characters. And while it is certainly true that characters need to drive this sort of film, there needs to be something important for them to do.

In some ways, this film bucks the three act structure. We think we know when the first act is ending, but the big money grab is a false note which leads to the aforementioned scene at the football game with Nicky and the millionaire matching wits. That scene is superb, and it is the best thing in the movie. The last – and most important – part of the film can’t match it. We don’t really care about the story, because we aren’t given much reason to. While it is true that the law of Hitchcock’s MacGuffin states that we don’t need to care about the ‘thing’ as long as the characters do, the characters in this film don’t care nearly as much as those in, saw, the OCEAN’S ELEVEN remake.

All that said, this is a fun movie. Smith is his usual charming self. but it is Robbie who really shines. She had a star-making turn as Leo’s second wife in WOLF OF WALL STREET, but that was a role which mostly asked her to take turns either taking her clothes off or pouting. It was a fine performance, but not one which showed her depth. FOCUS does a really nice job of revealing her ability to play comedy, some drama, some manipulation, and a whole bunch of likably natural. It’s easy to watch the two of them, Smith and Robbie, working together. It is just too bad that they weren’t given a bit stronger plot.

But, look, FOCUS is certainly a very watchable and likable film. Nothing wrong with it, save for some missed potential. Certainly worth its running time.




FINAL SCORE: 6.75 out of 10

~ by johnlink00 on October 11, 2015.

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