The film sees professional conman Nicky (Will Smith) teach the hot, young Jess (Margot Robbie) how to pull off cons, yet after they grow attach to one another and then separate, they are somehow later involved in a serious scam and things start to fall apart.
So with the film called Focus, let’s do just that and look at this film. Firstly, its location choices and scenery are spectacular; from the vibrant colourful party streets of New Orleans and the great atmosphere at a full stadium of American football fans to the hot slick extravagant parties and stunning racing locations in Buenos Aires. The cast. Amazing – can’t help but feel Will Smith’s character is just basically Will Smith, but after After Earth, he’s getting back on track – and, Margot Robbie is great, Rodrigo Santoro is good (Lost, 300), and Adrian Martinez (as Farhad) definitely brings a brilliant comedy value to the film, as does B.D. Wong (as Liyuan) at the football stadium. I should say now that the scene and con at the football stadium is brilliant and B.D. Wong is outstanding.
The plot. The premise of it mixed with a loved story is a good idea and had the potential to be great yet something in the film just didn’t make it get to that next level. The thing about con films is that the they should either focus about one big con event and the process leading up to it (think Ocean’s Eleven) or they should focus on a series of cons that link together and we see the characters change overtime. Focus tries with the latter, yet there doesn’t seem to be enough actual cons or time for it to work (you have the big con at the football stadium in New Orleans and then the big con with the racing companies at Buenos Aires – and yes, you have subplots within those cons but there needed to be another big con for the film to flow – 3 is a magic number they say). And the final third of the film – when Nicky and Jess are in Buenos Aires – doesn’t appeal as much as the rest of the film does…because it doesn’t click. Three years after New Orleans, Nicky and Jess see each other again by coincidentally being at the same party – and, on a directing and writing point of view, that’s not really a great explanation for them to be together again in the film. It’s almost as if, after Nicky leaves Jess in New Orleans, that the writers have simply added the Buenos Aires con scenes because they only had an hour’s worth of a script and Nicky had just left Jess in New Orleans unresolved. Had one of them called for help for the other character, or had there just been an actual reason for them to need to be together, would have worked better for the film.
Finally, there’s been some reviews saying that there are too many plot twists in the movie when actually, I think, there aren’t enough to grab my attention for the whole film; it seems to be half an hour of eventually building up a plot for there to then be only five minutes of twists and turns, then there’ll be another half an hour of a ‘story/con’ to eventually just have five minutes with the twists and turns of that con. If I’m getting told in interviews that ‘the film has so many twists’ and that ‘at one moment you think you know what’s happening and then suddenly you don’t’ or that ‘there’s so many twists you’ll never know until the end what the truth is’ then that’s what I hope to see before I go into the cinema – not a film where surprises, shocks and twists and turns only happen every thirty minutes in the space of five.
The chemistry between Nicky and Jess worked, as did the other characters, locations and the plot twists, yet there could have been more, and despite having a good finale (where the big twists are revealed), the final third of the film could have been better. A stylish enjoyable film, which had potential and most certainly conned us to be great yet sadly is just OK.