Before Focus went in front of the cameras there was huge amount of interest in it in Hollywood, with the likes of Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Ben Affleck and Kristen Stewart all being attached at one time or another. However, in the end it went to Will Smith and Margot Robbie as the two leads.
After watching it, I kind of wondered why so many people were so keen on it, as while fairly fun and decently entertaining, there’s very little to set it appear from a hundred other con-artist thrillers.
Will Smith plays Nicky, a veteran con-man who uses a mix of sleight of hand and psychological trickery to get cash out of his marks. He comes across small-scale hustler Jess (Margot Robbie), and reluctantly takes her under his wing, teaching her the con-artist ropes and pulling her into a sting with a massive pay-off.
Three years later they bump into each other again, this time when she is the girlfriend of racing car team owner Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), and Nicky has been hired by that owner to con other teams into using a computer algorithm that’s supposed to make their cars go faster but will actually ensure Garriga’s cars have the edge. With each side having their own secrets and a romantic edge between Nicky and Jess, things begin to get complicated.
I said earlier I wasn’t sure why so many stars flirted with Focus, but actually I kind of do. It’s the sort of movie where on the page you can sell it as being The Sting crossed with Ocean’s 11, but with a modern, psychological-trickery edge (one of the characters even appears to be an American version of mental illusionist Derren Brown). However, while it’s always fun and fairly cool – even if when you think about it these are all terrible people who shamelessly steal for a living, with the film having a completely amoral attitude to that – the cons themselves and the way they’re presented aren’t really clever enough to raise this above being fairly standard fare.
Indeed, it would have been a rather tedious film at times if it weren’t for the charms of Will Smith and the excellent Margot Robbie, and it’ll be great to see them back together in next year’s Suicide Squad. Other characters unfortunately are a bit flat or don’t make a huge amount of sense, and there are also more than a few plot holes that don’t help things at all.
It certainly looks good though and there is an undeniable edge of cool the movie possesses, but ultimately it doesn’t add up to as much as it perhaps ought to. While I may have sounded down on the film, the fact is that it is fairly fun, it just perhaps ought to be more than it is.
Overall Verdict: It may ooze style and have cool leads, but Focus needed to concentrate more on the cons if it were really going to be great.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac