Review of: Focus
Will Smith has always been one of my favorite actors. Notice I said actor and not movie star. He is undoubtedly a movie star0 of the first order. But I do feel that once he became, back in the late 1990s, the king of the summer blockbuster, he has not had the material that really highlighted his talent as an actor (The Pursuit of Happyness in 2006 being the exception). But with Focus the superb “actor” Will Smith is back.
Focus is an intricate romance told through the vehicle of jazz paced confidence schemes. I love con films and the intricate twists and turns the story and schemes take. And since I see everyone I can, I can usually figure out the catch in the story well before the surprise is revealed. But in Focus, I was fooled right up until the end. And I loved it.
This is a film about a team of con artists headed by Nicky (Will Smith). We first see this team working in New Orleans during a Super Bowl week. And the cons this team does are like choreographed modern dances. The film actually had a “Con Advisor/Pick Pocket Designer” on the crew.
During this initial week of French Quarter partying, football and gambling Nicky’s crew is taking everything that isn’t nailed down, we meet Jess (Margot Robbie). We see Nicky first discover her talents as a pick pocket, and then bring Jess into his crew. While we see the intricate moves of the cons we see Nicky and Jess dance around each other as they start to fall in love.
Now, as much as I want to tell more about the movie plot, I can’t. If I go too much further I will spoil the film for you. You need to see for you self how the directors (Glenn Ficarra and John Requa) chose to reveal each of the key turns in the story. You need to feel the delight in how they built tension then release it with humor or a twist in the story. For example, there is a key turning point during the last act of the film that has a build up that is so under stated as to doubly enhance the impact of the results.
Since I can’t tell more about the story I tell you about are the performances.
Will Smith as Nicky is cool. Super cool. He is fully in control of large, intricate schemes, but at the same time we can see turmoil beneath the surface. There is a scene near the end of the film where without uttering a word we see Nicky struggling with fear, love, loyalty, and contempt at the same time. And he makes us struggle with him. Will Smith’s talent, charm, humor and gravitas are on full display in this film.
Margot Robbie’s Jess is the gorgeous distraction in the con’s and to the con Nicky. You are never 100% sure which side of the con she is on and at times she also seems to not know herself. She helps bring us into the story.
And I have not see Gerald McRaney in as good of a role as this in a long time. Owens, the tough security chief to the multimillionaire Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro) actually has a couple of the best scenes in the movie. He is force to reckon with.
It is really killing me that I can’t tell your more about this great movie without spoiling it for you. So, please go see this movie right away and put me out of my misery.