FOCUS (MA) is an unfocused hocus pocus heist con with a style over substance postage stamp scenario featuring Will Smith and Margot Robbie and Robert Taylor as a foul mouthed Formula 1 owner, McEwan, whose favourite vowel is U flanked by the consonants FCK. His f bombing gives rise to one of the funnier lines in the film. Actually it might be the only funny line in the film.
The show, however, is stolen by B D Wong in the role of Lyuan, a Chinese high roller who will bet on anything. His stunt punting offers the most tension in the film and his positive mien is infectiously hilarious.
Much of the fun of confidence trickster flicks is the trickster element, but FOCUS is just tricksy with a confidence that turns into sludgy smugness.
Smith plays Nicky Spurgeon who runs a gang of pretty slick pickpockets, and let’s face it, it’s not a very romantic mantle to be CEO of a racket of petty thieves. Yet the movie wants us to make it so.In the end he’s just a schmuck who likes to ease you of a buck.
Robbie plays Jess, a cohort he jilted, who turns up after some time with the same target Nicky has in his sights for a scam.
No amount of exotic locales and high fashion can expunge the vulgarity of this film, white bread pretending to be caviar, soda pop masquerading as champagne.
What FOCUS brings into focus is its inherent fraud – slapdash when it should be slick, creaky when it should be clever, ingenuous when it should be ingenious.
Its bankruptcy is highlighted when it is entered into the ledger beside great con jobs like Mamet’s House of Games or The Spanish Prisoner, The Grifters, American Hustle, The Sting to name but a few.
Will Smith’s career used to be waving, now it’s drowning, and it’s doubtful this woeful wad of crud will be the life buoy it was supposed to be.
FOCUS is a con. Ready to be suckered?