FILM REVIEW: FOCUS (15)
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CAST: WILL SMITH, MARGOT ROBBIE, RODRIGO SANTORO, GERALD McRANEY, ADRIAN MARTINEZ, BRENNAN BROWN & BD WONG
RUNNING TIME: 1 HR 45 MINS
DIRECTORS: GLENN FICARRA & JOHN REQUA
It’s great to see Will Smith back and having fun again – even if this flawed comedy heist drama doesn’t do the best with his talent.
With so many twists and turns Focus tries too many ‘smarts’, and its grander intentions become blurred as it ties itself in knots – exasperated by a tedious ending that takes the film one major step too far.
Fortunately it’s made watchable by the chemistry – despite a surprisingly leaden script from the makers of 2011’s Crazy, Stupid, Love – between Smith and his leading lady, played by rising Aussie actress Margot Robbie, who shined in The Wolf of Wall Street.
Even though Smith badly failed to make a star out of his son Jaden in the blockbuster disaster After Earth, he doesn’t do any harm advancing the career of Robbie here – who shows she’s more than just eye-candy with a noteworthy turn.
The main problem is that Focus actually loses its ‘focus’ by thinking it’s actually cleverer than what it is – or actually needs to be – by unnecessarily trying to raise a bar that doesn’t need to be raised with con, after con, then a cleverer con, then an even bigger con... then truly preposterous cons.
As you may have guessed it’s a movie about con artists, and Will Smith’s veteran Nicky Spurgeon is just about the best at what he does – organising theft on a major scale.
He then takes amateur wannabe Jess (former Neighbours actress Robbie) under his wing in New Orleans – but when they become romantically involved Nicky realises love and deception just don’t mix.
And when they meet up three years later in Buenos Aires during Nicky’s latest trickery – involving European racing supremo Garriga (300’s Rodrigo Santoro) – Jess re-emerges to change his ‘focus’ and things end up getting very messy.
The film is undoubtedly at its best when Smith and Robbie are collaborating on-screen – and is particularly memorable for one exceptional con involving BD Wong’s (who famously played Martin Short’s assistant in Steve Martin’s Father of the Bride remake) compulsive gambler that provides a tense set-piece that really shows what this film could have been.
But unfortunately the rest of the film peters out into just about serviceable fare – complete with Nicky’s annoyingly-crude sidekick Farhad (Adrian Martinez) – that actually gets more tedious throughout the duration as it unravels under the weight of its expectations.
It should have played it more like Ocean’s Eleven, but ends up being Ocean’s Twelve.
At the very least it’s a kind of return to form for the ever-amiable Smith, but it’s just a shame he chose a film that’s trying to be the Ferrari of heist movies – but ends up being a Ford Focus. And for most cinema-goers that will be perfectly acceptable.
By Gavin Miller: Rating: 3/5