Too often during Focus, the latest attempt by Will Smith to prove he’s still a box office draw, I found myself thinking how much better it might have been in the hands of someone like Steven Soderbergh.
As it stands, though, co-directors and screenwriters John Requa and Glenn Ficarra prove, as with Smith himself, that past prowess (they also co-directed the excellent Crazy, Stupid, Love.) doesn’t guarantee continued success.
Focus does show glimpses of the fun, inventive movie it could have been, but a slogging script and lazy performances by Smith and co-star Margot Robbie simply weigh it down too much for the audience to buy in.
Smith is Nicky, an old school con man/pickpocket, who makes his living fleecing people, whether it’s a wallet here or there or a major, million-dollar score. Robbie is Jess, his latest protege, but we’re never really sure if they might just be playing each other.
There’s plenty of evidence that Focus had its heart in the right place. There are elements that will remind you of The Sting and Sodergergh’s own Oceans (11, 12, and 13) movies, but by the time the big scam comes around, about halfway through the movie, there’s just no reason to really care about any of it anymore.
Focus is certainly fun to look at– the hyper-saturated palette gives the film some much-needed pop, and the locales, from New Orleans to Buenos Aires, almost become their own character, but you can only watch what looks like a car commercial for so long before wondering where the movie is.
Eventually a pretty nifty little twist comes along, but by that point it’s too little too late. It’d be pretty lazy to say that Focus could have benefited from, well, a little focus. But maybe that’s fair after all– considering how lazy the movie itself is.