A step in the right direction for Will. So this is about a seasoned con man (Will Smith) that crosses paths with a newcomer (Margot Robbie). They start to work with each other through a few different schemes, but can they ever completely trust each other? Looking at this at face value, I thought this was going to be like 2013’s overachiever Now You See Me. While that was more of an ensemble piece, this is much more of a vehicle for Smith and Robbie. They covering very similar ground, though, as they are both con movies. They are both moderately competent, but neither ever completely dazzles you with exceptional storytelling.
For my money, I don’t think anybody’s going to do it better than Catch Me If You Can.
This is actually a nice departure for Will Smith. Apart from a cameo in Anchorman 2, this is his first rated R film released in 12 years, believe it or not. Yes, Bad Boys II was the last time you can see him openly using swearwords, as his career has been caught in this PG-13 whirlpool where he’s been determined to make 1. family friendly films, and 2. movies designed to advance his son’s career. It’s actually refreshing to see him let his proverbial hair down, because his charm flows so naturally when he doesn’t have to have to worry about a filter, almost taking it back to his Fresh Prince days. This is also fun material to work with, as con movies usually are, and when Smith and Robbie are onscreen together, that’s when this film shines the brightest.
It’s always interesting to see characters that can manipulate a situation to whatever their liking.
Con movies usually follow a certain type of formula, and while Focus ends up in a different place than most, it still doesn’t deviate all that much from the standard template. There’s always one piece of the puzzle that the filmmakers withhold from you that makes everything come together in the last fifteen minutes, and if there’s a negative to be said here, it is that Focus doesn’t have the most satisfying conclusion out there. In addition to that, it also slows down quite a bit before the big finale, which halts all the previously built momentum that they were so good at establishing for the first two acts. This is a perfectly satisfactory movie that gets by on the strengths of its two leads, and it if you are interested, this would make for a good rental.
Focus (2015) ***
– Critic for Hire