Focus - Online Review

'a unique film in that it apparently has absolutely no interest in making you like any of its supposedly likeable leading characters'

Focus is a unique film in that it apparently has absolutely no interest in making you like any of its supposedly likeable leading characters. Will Smith and his band of grifters, we are told, pull off such crimes as pickpocketing, credit card copying and other nerfarious deeds against what seem to be completely innocent members of the public. You wait for the punchline. Perhaps one of them is a cop or all and sundry of their victims are terrible people? It never arrives.

This leaves Smith and fellow lead Margot Robbie with the unenviable task of making stars out of their completely charmless characters, Nicky and Jess. Whatever criticisms you can level at Smith in particular, charm is never something he has lacked. He is, as the kids say, 'box office'. Both give it a game try but are eventually undermined by co-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who never give them a chance.

Part of that lack of chance is embodied by the curious middle-ground the film inhabits; somewhere between blockbuster and bargain basement sub-Oceans Eleven clone. So much of this film feels under-developed. The score, for example, seems to be constantly trying to emulate elevator music. A prominent set piece takes place at 'the big game', so-called because the film did not secure NFL rights and therefore cannot reference the Super Bowl or any of the league's teams. Instead of rewriting that segment (it could be any sort of any major event; a fight, a big horse race, anything), the film ploughs on regardless, rather typifying its general approach. That that segment also features BD Wong chewing through scenery at a Pac Man rate, does not help.

Finally, as Focus rather admits that it has spent its first half wasting a great deal of your time (all of the stuff about Nicky's team is a complete waste: you never see them again), it reboots and antagonists arrive in the shape of nefarious race team boss Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro) and his security guy, House Of Cards' Gerald McRaney. It's the atypical 'too little, too late' and, worse, there are holes all over this area of the plot. When it's finished, ask yourself exactly why McRaney and Smith share the scene that they do in Nicky's hotel room, whilst Jess scampers for cover. More significantly, neither of the new players provide enough to bring Nicky and Jess back from the pointless beautiful people that they are, nor do they provide the plot with the level of excitement the 'clever' conman premise seemed to promise.




Focus was streaming on Blinkbox.


By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

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