“Focus” tries so hard to be the next sexy caper and make us believe there is such a thing as a perfect con. The film doesn’t succeed at either one.
As a veteran in the art of misdirection, Nicky has seen it all. That is until he meets fledgling con artist Jess Barrett. As he takes her under his wing, the two become romantically involved.
When things get too close, Nicky does what he does best and disappears. Later, as Nicky plans the ultimate con in Buenos Aires, he is met again by his former student.
“Focus” stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Gerald McRaney, BD Wong. Adrian Martinez and Robert Taylor. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa wrote and directed the film.
Nicky is charming, confident, slick and even somewhat sophisticated. No matter the dedication to the script’s mojo and drama, Smith is never 100 percent believable as a con man.
Sad to say, but Smith has never truly excelled at romantic comedies with the exception of his performance in 2005’s “Hitch.” Since his starring role in M. Night Shyamalan’s “After Earth” in 2013, many people have questioned whether Smith will retire. I can definitely say this film is just the beginning of Smith’s return. Even though this movie fails, Smith’s performance shows that he is only getting warmed up.
The absolutely stunning Robbie is quickly becoming one of today’s most impressive actresses. After her breakthrough performance alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” she shows in this film that she can handle drama. She is not afraid to go toe to toe against any Hollywood heavyweight.
Sadly, the relationship between her character and Smith’s is just not there, and you really want to believe it with the caliber of their performances. No matter how sexy or dramatic, the two of them are just an odd pairing, and that relationship affects the plot. There is no chemistry between these two.
Ficarra and Requa, who brought us the 2011 all-star romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” are also behind this film. One thing I will praise about is the way they shot the beautiful Buenos Aires. They sincerely make you want to drop everything and run to Argentina.
The duo also have a real knack for writing comedic bits peppered in over romance and drama. This was probably the most refreshing part of both Smith and Robbie’s characters, seeing that they are actually people, not just con artists.
I really wanted to like this film, but it was not meant to be. Here is to the return of Smith and the rise of Robbie. Keep your heads held high and move forward.
Story by John Gruccio, Contributing writer