Film review – Focus
When the French Prince of Bel Air, and the leading lady of ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ team up it seems fairly certain that this winning duo will make for great viewing. And yet Focus, their latest endeavour, somehow misses the mark.
Nicky, played by Will Smith, is an experienced and notorious con man who decides to train Jess, played by Margot Robbie, an amateur con artist his many devious skills. Predictably, things become complicated when a romance forms and both struggle to trust each other due to their nefarious professions.
It’s your classic ‘boy meets girl’, but with higher stakes, more guns and a lot more illegality. Aside from that it’s hard to categorise the film as it vacillates so quickly between car chases and sticky situations, to carefree flirting and comedy.
The comedy and ‘plot twists’ are fairly obvious and not particularly original, and unfortunately the directors Glenn Ficcara and John Requa have managed to fit in almost every clichéd line about deception and conning people.
As a result it easily falls flat and becomes tedious, especially for fans of ‘Catch Me If you Can’ or ‘Ocean’s 11’ because Focus is a simplified and less exciting way of exploring the themes of deception, scams and ingenious schemes to steal goods and money. This is mainly due to the fact that there is no defining heist that they are working towards, but many smaller crimes so the tension is heavily diluted which adds to the repetition and lack of a clear structure.
As a fan of Will Smith since the 90’s it is also disappointing to see him selling himself short. He has proved himself to be such a worthy actor that Focus does not make the most of his acting skills at all. We’ve all laughed along during Fresh Prince and yet most of his one-liners are hard to appreciate in the context of this film.
Smith and Robbie do work well together and their on-screen chemistry is evident, which would work well in a film that had clear intentions. The emotional journey Focus establishes initially lulls you into a false sense of security by presenting you with a light, silly comedy, but then becomes darker and more complex until you leave the cinema confused and underwhelmed that it became too ambitious, and completely implausible.
In fact, the ending is downright nonsensical that it undermines any credibility or realism that the film initially seemed to be gearing towards. We are introduced to characters that appear to be criminal masterminds with enough tricks of the trade to get away with it. Nicky has done well from his life of crime and lives in luxury, staying in extravagant hotels while travelling around the world. With this in mind, you would expect him to realise that his final crime is completely absurd and outlandish, but apparently that escapes him.
Ironically it doesn’t require any 'focus' to follow this film so if you’re looking for a film with less complexity or light relief then this is a good option, although you may feel conned out of the money you’ve spent on a cinema ticket.
Underwhelming and wouldn’t recommend – 2/5 stars.
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Posted on 19th March 2015 by Elinore Court.
Elinore Court lives at Liberty House in London, she is studying a masters degree in Magazine Journalism at City University.