FOCUS, written and directed by John Requa and Glenn Ficarra (CRAZY, STUPID, LOVE), is a sexy, outrageous heist film in the vein of OCEANS 11. Entertaining to its core, FOCUS has enough turns and tricks to keep you constantly guessing. These twists, combined with phenomenal chemistry between the two leads, Will Smith and Margot Robbie, makes for the perfect throw-back heist film. Not to mention, as in any good con or heist movies, sometimes you, the viewer, is the one being conned too. Although the ending of FOCUS is completely telegraphed, due to some obvious foreshadowing in earlier dialogue, the journey getting there is tons of fun. And you can’t ask for much more than that.
Nicky (Will Smith) is a master conman, specializing in high-volume thievery (like pickpocketing at big events) as opposed to big, “retire-worthy” cons. Everything seems to be going smoothly in his life, “until a girl walked in”. Cue Jess (Margot Robbie) a beautiful, young rookie con artist, who tries to pull one over on Nicky, not knowing his occupation. He quickly calls her out on her amateur methods but sees she has potential to be an ally. After some heavy-convincing on Jess’ part, Nicky allows her to become his protege; she can join his group in New Orleans as they steal from people attending the Super Bowl. Quickly becoming enraptured by the beautiful blonde, Nicky teaches Jess many of his tips and tricks. But as quickly as he falls for her, Nicky has a change of heart and leaves Jess in New Orleans.
Three years later the pair coincidentally meet up again in Buenos Aires. Nicky has been hired by Jess’ boyfriend, Raphael (Adrian Martinez), to trick his biggest racing competitor into buying a new fuel-burning algorithm that they think is an advantage, but is really a hindrance. But will the presence of Jess take Nicky’s focus off the mission?
FOCUS is not one of those movies you can (or should) think too much about, or you will not enjoy yourself. Without giving too much away, the film’s first showstopping con is completely outlandish, but really, really fun. Just go with it, people. The film also excels with the always charismatic Smith, meeting his match in newcomer Margot Robbie. At first, I didn’t know how their relationship would translate on screen. After all, Smith is two times Robbie’s age. But I can safely say, their chemistry is electrifying, and is the main takeaway from the film.
If for no other reason, see FOCUS to bask in the greatness of Margot Robbie. Not only is she insanely beautiful, reminiscent of Grace Kelly, she is also incredibly talented. After her amazing performances in THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and Z FOR ZACHARIAH (coming out later this year), Margot has become one of my favorite actresses working today. Her role in FOCUS is another great performance to add to the list. I was concerned that her character was going to be more of a Bond girl, contributing little to the film other than her good looks, but that is not the case in the least. Robbie is the second lead of the film and has almost as much screen-time as Smith. Her character is given a lot to do and a decent character arc, going from young ingenue to a more experienced con artist; at times conning the big man himself. Being cast as Harley Quinn in SUICIDE SQUAD, expect Margot’s star to continue to skyrocket.
Regardless of the fact that FOCUS’ main characters can’t be trusted, you can trust ME in that the film is a helluva fun time. Just leave your skepticism at the door.
My Review: B