Skip to main content

ISLE OF DOGS & Wes Anderson Launch CrowdRise Campaign To Benefit @bestfriends

Movie Review: Focus

The caper drama Focus has a lot going for it, but gets its pockets picked in a few key areas.

Review by Matt Cummings

It doesn't happen too often that an actor can get completely knocked down by one role, but for Will Smith that was After Earth. It was not only one of the worst films of 2013, but an embarrassing trainwreck that saw Smith lose nearly all of his credibility and charm. It's taken awhile to get that back, an Focus helps a lot, even though it suffers in a couple of key areas.

When a one-night stand between Nicky Spurgeon (Smith) and Jess (Margo Robbie) leads to trouble with Jess' husband, it looks like Nicky will have to pay big time to make the problem go away. What Jess doesn't know is that Nicky is a smooth operator and con himself, swindling money left and right including her rings, wallet, and sunglasses from her before she even realizes it. The two decide to join forces during a football championship game in New Orleans, pick-pocketing their way to a huge haul, with the help of Nicky's army of cons. But the relationship isn't meant to last, and soon Jess finds herself dumped and without options while Nicky ruminates of his decision to leave her. Fast forward three years, and the two meet again, this time while Nicky is pursuing the ultimate prize, a con so big he might be able to retire. But trouble isn't far behind either, and soon Nicky and Jess find themselves in a tightening noose as his con is exposed. Or do they?

Focus has a lot going for it. If the goal is make the audience wonder exactly what is real and what is conceived by Nicky's sharp mind, then consider it a winner. The cons are swift and multi-layered, as if the con is being conned itself. The deception is nearly unending, as each new twist provides more opportunities for Robbie and Smith to heat it up. Smith, for all that he's done to himself to cast doubt in the minds of audiences, returns to his classic form but with a better dressed, more mature attitude towards his craft. Robbie is sensational with Smith, a hot burn each time they're together. She could make fire jealous, which is why her securing Harley Quinn in Sinister Six will be such a delicious experience for us. But, when these two are apart - such as when Nicky is ruminating about missing Jess or she's with Nicky's other con minions - things really slow down. No, it's doesn't turn into a slow burn, I mean it...slows...down. The surprise of the film is Gerald McRaney, whose gruff precision honed in the 1980's with Simon & Simon, steals every scene he's in. He's still a force of nature, and thus in the casting department Ficarra and Requa have utterly succeeded. But, Focus does manage to succeed elsewhere, taking us on a fun rollercoaster mixed with liquor and women. It's like the Fast & Furious of cons, spinning into corners and thematically jumping multiple exploding cars while its hero pretends to look razzed but has every angle covered. Wait a minute: that's a con-caper too...

And still with all of that achievement, the script co-creators Glenn Ficarra and John Requa is not as smart or as endearing as they want us to believe. Not only is some of the direction a bit messy, but its story of crosses, double-crosses, and greying loyalties might make you a bit paranoid that the entire affair is a set up. When that doesn't happen, you feel somewhat cheated because the ending just...ends. The other problem here is that the story doesn't seem to have one; Focus is about chemistry, not a plot that makes sense or is constructed in any way to reflect one. This creates a lot of characters that really don't matter, with those that you do want to see developed not really given enough time to do so. All of that skirting does ultimately affect whether you care about whether Nicky and Jess get together, if their con will see them rich or dead, or whether any of it really matters to the overall story. That's a gamble I don't like playing.

Focus is a good ride that also misses in a couple of key areas. Will Smith and Margo Robbie electrify the screen, but neither is as good when alone or with other actors, while Gerald McRaney benefits from a few great lines. For top caper, you still have to take Ocean's Eleven or The Italian Job, but Focus makes a good case for rainy afternoon cable sitdown or matinee experiment.

Focus is Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence and has a runtime of 104 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.


Popular posts from this blog



Starring Six WWE® Superstars The Miz®, Maryse Ouellet, Heath Slater, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel and Naomi.

 WWE® Studios and Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions (SPWA) today announced that the two studios will partner on the upcoming action film, The Marine 5: Battleground. Directed by James Nunn (Eliminators), the film will feature WWE® Superstars The Miz®, Maryse Ouellet, Heath Slater, Bo Dallas, Curtis Axel, and Naomi. The film will begin production on May 31st in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

The Miz ® returns as Jake Carter, an ex-Marine who served in the Middle East and is now saving civilian lives stateside as an EMT. After responding to an emergency call in an abandoned parking lot, Carter finds himself protecting an injured man from a ruthless biker gang. With the odds stacked against him, Carter utilizes his unique Marine skills to stop the bikers’ rampage before any more innocent blood is…

AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR Featurette “Legacy”

Watch the new “Legacy” featurette, as Kevin Feige joins other filmmakers and the cast of Marvel Studios’ AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR to chronicle the growth and success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from its auspicious beginning with “Iron Man” in 2008 to the upcoming tour de force “AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR.”

An unprecedented cinematic journey ten years in the making and spanning the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, Marvel Studios’ “Avengers: Infinity War” brings to the screen the ultimate, deadliest showdown of all time. The Avengers and their Super Hero allies must be willing to sacrifice all in an attempt to defeat the powerful Thanos before his blitz of devastation and ruin puts an end to the universe.

Anthony and Joe Russo direct the film, which is produced by Kevin Feige. Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Michael Grillo, Trinh Tran, Jon Favreau, James Gunn and Stan Lee are the executive producers. Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely wrote the screenplay. “Avengers: Infinity…

David Leitch Directing Hobbs & Shaw Spin-Off

As Universal guns the engine on the first planned spin-off from the Fast & Furious franchise, the studio has pinpointed the person it wants to wrangle Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham for the film. John Wick and Atomic Blonde director David Leitch is directing the film.

It makes sense that a film featuring the two would demand a director who has proven they can bring action scenes to life, and Leitch – who moved from stunt co-ordination and second unit work to co-direct the first Wick with Chad Stahelski – has certainly shown he's got the flair for it.

Chris Morgan has written the script for the new film, which doesn't yet have a name, but should boast Johnson's Luke Hobbs and Statham's recently redeemed Deckard Shaw on their own mission, minus any candy asses. Universal wants this one in cinemas for July next year, and so it needs the wheels to hit the road quickly.

Leitch's most recent job was directing Deadpool 2, which opens in the UK on 16 May and has jus…