Focus Has Sharp Scenes But Astigmatic Plot

FTC Statement: Reviewers are frequently provided by the publisher/production company with a copy of the material being reviewed.The opinions published are solely those of the respective reviewers and may not reflect the opinions of or its management.

As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. (This is a legal requirement, as apparently some sites advertise for Amazon for free. Yes, that's sarcasm.)

I love a good con movie. From THE STING through LEVERAGE, if it's done well, I'm pulled in.

FOCUS starts off with great promise, and the fact that the filmmaker's brought in the master, Apollo Robbins, as a consultant, shows they at least had their hearts in the right place going into this. The film stars Will Smith and Margot Robbie (who will pair up again in the already overexposed SUICIDE SQUAD next year) as Nicky, a master con man, and Jess, a would-be pickpocket who crosses his path. He takes her in, mentors her in the finer points of the grift, and lets her take part in some of his current cons. And then, without notice, he cuts her loose. All that buildup, all those wonderfully filmed scenes just go poof as we realize this was just backstory to the film that's only just now getting started well into the movie.

Three years later, and Nicky is consulted to assist with an auto racing scheme for a team owner named Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro). Garriga's bodyguard, Owens (Gerald McRaney) voices opposition to Garriga's plan, but goes along with it while giving Nicky a stern warning about what would be expected if he double-crosses them. As Nicky is about to go into action, he is interrupted by the presence of Jess, who has her own plan for getting close to Garriga. What follows is a series of confrontations and misdirects -- but very little running the con, at least up until the end. And then the denouement, which seems like a pretty cool climax, falls apart when you start to reconsider all the previous interactions. It doesn't add up, and it wraps with a completely disappointing conclusion.

This Warner Brothers Blu-ray includes some nice bonus features that actually exceed the feature presentation in some ways. "Masters of Misdirection: The Players in a Con" is an education from Apollo Robbins on manipulating situations to one's advantage. There are two character profiles -- "Will Smith: Gentleman Thief" and "Margot Robbie: Stealing Hearts" -- in which both actors talk about learning the tricks of their characters' trades. The bonuses conclude with some deleted scenes and an alternate opening (but, alas, not an alternate ending).

FOCUS has some wonderful bright spots in storytelling. Unfortunately, the title has the one thing that the writers seemed to lose along the way: focus.

3.0 / 5.0