‘Focus’ fails to maintain tension
Focus, the latest Will Smith action film, may have pulled in $19.1 million in its opening weekend, but the film’s reception better represented by its 55 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Focus will attract plenty of moviegoers to the theater due to its leading man and sexy tagline, but the film ultimately slows halfway through and fails to leave a positive impression on the viewer.
Similar to many other action movies, Focus details a remarkable and cunning con artist circle led by Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith). Nicky and his cohorts schemes are flawless and certainly the most entertaining part of the movie, as we see slick distractions and complex set ups (such as faking heartache as a distraction).
Nicky’s crew goes for quantity over quality, meaning they steal small targets, such as a camera lens or expensive watch or wallet, versus larger plans.
Like in any decent action movie, Nicky is accompanied—by Jess Barret (Margot Robbie), who works her way into Nicky’s inner circle of cons by scamming him herself.
Robbie fills the necessary requirement of a female love interest—beautiful—but also proves that she is worth the hype from her last starring role in The Wolf of Wall Street. While Smith may be considered a fading star after recent box office flops (read: After Earth), Robbie steals the film, and we will certainly see more of her.
I’ll also point out that Smith, at 46, is nearly twice Robbie’s age, so I ask, Has Smith finally reached the point of no return? He’s clearly past his Bad Boys, Men In Black and even I Am Legend days.
Like I said, the first part of the film—when the cons are pulling off heists at a football championship game in New Orleans—far surpasses the rest of the feeble plot and action.
In New Orleans, Nicky meets up with fellow partner-in-crime Farhad (Adrian Martinez), who is a hilarious sidekick. Fardhad brings a bit of comic relief to the otherwise dry action movie with his general appearance and witty lines.
The other much needed comic relief comes from Liyuan Tse, played by B.D. Wong—yes, that guy from Law and Order: SVU.
Tse is the target of one of Nicky’s larger mentally manipulative schemes that results in a windfall of millions of dollars.
In a series of bets at the championship football game, Nicky swindles Tse, a wealthy Chinese businessman, out of a briefcase full of money through a series of bets. This scene of dueling, high-tension and bets is the best scene of the film and is probably the only reason the film is worth watching.
Ironically, the film’s tagline, “Never Lose Focus,” is exactly what occurs halfway through the film, when. after three years, Nicky and Jess unexpectantly reunite in Buenos Aires.
The duo concocts a complex scheme against billionaire racecar owner Rafael Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro), who is the perfect combination of sex appeal and power.
However, you can never really know if Nicky and Jess are on the same team or scheming against each other—are they part of a perfect love story or an ultimate mistake?
Thankfully, the film only runs 105 minutes, but its ending is just another disappointment that seems to insinuate a possible sequel.
Ultimately, all the double crosses and scheming get mixed up in a confusing web of deceit, and the film fails to achieve any air of notoriety.
A February article in The Guardian describes the film best, saying Focus “passes in a blur of dullness” and lacks “the charm of Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven or the steel of Mamet’s House of Games.”
Overall, the film could have been much more intense, but, realistically, how exciting can a film about stealing watches be?