release date: 27 February 2015 (Canada)
run time: 104 mins
considered: Comedy, Crime, Drama
director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adrian Martinez, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro, BD Wong, Brennan Brown, Robert Taylor, Dotan Bonen, Griff Furst, Stephanie Honore, David Stanford, Dominic Fumusa, Steve Kim, Don Yesso
movie summary: There is a pick pocket around every corner and the bigger crowd the bigger the heist. Nicky (Will Smith) runs a very lucrative business organizing people to slide that beautiful ring off your finger, expensive watch off your wrist, or lift your wallet without you ever batting an eyelash. Jess (Margot Robbie) is a small time thief who crosses paths with Nicky in a bar while he’s on business in New York City. After a few short hours, she’ll steal her way into his heart and the two will hit it off romantically while working a job at the Super Bowl in New Orleans. After the big game and the big pay off the pair will split and go their separate ways, which weighs heavy on his heart for the next three years. When Nick is busy pulling a con job on the rich and famous race car driver Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), he’ll cross paths with Jess who happens to be his girlfriend. Locking eyes with the best girl he’s ever had is enough to throw Nicky off his game, all the while threaten his operation and the several million dollar pay out.
my thoughts: I can honestly say that Focus did not interest me at all. From watching the trailer I thought this was going to be Will Smith’s lame attempt at a career comeback, that wasn’t going to be that good, even with the lovely Margot Robbie at his side. There have been plenty of con artist movies out there which lead me to believe this was just going to be a copycat of those. When my buddy suggested we catch Focus on Saturday night in IMAX, I was like why on earth would this movie be in IMAX?!? I figured since Fifty Shades of Grey just left that theatre that they were providing us with back to back crappy movies for the low price of $20.25.
When Focus started the interaction between Smith and Robbie peaked my interest. He’s a smooth talker that can be really funny even when he doesn’t try. Robbie is by far one of the sexiest women in the movie industry, so to see them hit it off within minutes of the opening credits was enough to get curious on how things will unfold. It’s amazing how both of these characters are able to rob each other blind while being completely distracted by the other’s personality. The story picks up a lot of steam and really gets rolling when the pair work the busy streets of New Orleans and rack up an impressive $1.2 million in stolen money, credit cards, and valuables. One the best scenes of the whole movie, which is moving along great this point, was the gambling sequence during the Super Bowl between Smith and an Asian business man named Liyuan (BD Wong). Armed with the black bag full of money, which Jess is supposed to get a cut of, Nicky begins to make small bets before waging all the money in the bag. This was such a fun part of the movie because we learn so many things about these characters, their personality traits, their ability to read tells, and what it’s like to win big then lose big. The drama continues to builds as the sakes rise with no clear indication of whether or not Nicky can save his new-found fortune or not.
When Nicky decides it’s not best to mix business with pleasure, one can’t help but feel sad and shocked when he simply just ditches Jess. Left heart-broken and in tears, she’ll complete her rags to riches story when she finds a great guy in Garriga. Nicky meanwhile continues to work the circuit raking in the dough whenever the job calls for it. He decides to go into business with Garriga and rig race car computer programs. Everything is running smooth until Jess steps into the picture, in a very seductive red dress I might add, which throws our hero con man for a loop. He begins to question the time he walked out on her and whether or not he can pull off the job anymore. Things begin to fall apart as he shifts his focus on getting her back instead of reprogramming the race car equipment. Garriga’s bodyguard and personal assistant, Owens (Gerald McRaney) gets suspicious of Nicky’s work and tails him to find a crack in his armour. By this time he’s already won Jess back and the two are planning on running away together, but first have to dodge everything that gets thrown in their paths. Seduction is running high at this point because it’s tough to tell who is playing who and which one of them is actually being sincere.
When the world crumbles beneath their feet, it will be up to Nicky to save both of them or end up dead. When he’s tied to a chair and confessing all the secrets of his plan it is simply an amazing thing to witness how everything unfolded and lead to the two getting busted. What’s even more surprising is just when you think you know the plan, the whole thing may actually be a lie and nothing we know about these characters are true. It was one of those moments that left me in awe, there were so many moments I was like “oh that’s going to happen” or “he’s going to blow his own cover”, but the writers and director were creative enough to take us down a completely different path. The uncertainly of the direction of the story as well as the characters is what allowed me to enjoy Focus so much. When we left the theatre I felt bad for judging the movie so harshly in the beginning when I really enjoyed the film in the end. I know if I ever caught this a second time I would just focus on any clues I may have missed, because it’s clear we are meant to look at the big picture and not the little details. The movie and ending kinda reminded me of Now You See Me, the movie about those magicians from 2013, but this story is so much more personal and sexy than that could ever be. The story builds up the characters so well that our focus is always on something else when a different kind of story is also unfolding before our eyes and we are none the wiser to see it.
my final thoughts: Focus is unpredictable, sexy, funny, charming, and entertaining. I had no expectations going into this one and was wrong to feel that way. WIll Smith has brought his career back to life with a great performance a slick con-man, while Margot Robbie continues to grow her young career thanks to her ability to pull off sexy characters. If you like a predictable story that is far from predictable then Focus might be the movie you catch this week or next weekend. Even if you dread the thought of another Will Smith movie, give Focus a chance because you will not be disappointed, I’m happy I didn’t pass it up…or lose my wallet for that matter.
my star rating: 8 out 10
imdb: 7.1 out 10
rottentomatoes: 56% out 100%
roger ebert: 3 out 4
richard crouse: 3.5 out 5