Focus is a Will Smith heist film from 2015.  It stars Smith as Nicky, a Danny Ocean-esque con artist/thief and Margot Robbie as his lover/apprentice/accomplice Jess.  It also has Rodrigo Santoro and Gerald McRaney (of Major Dad fame) as the big fish, a race team owner named Garrigo and his main henchmen, respectively.

Synopsis (Non-spoilery)

Nicky is a veteran thief/scam artist who meets Jess, takes up with her and teaches her the business.  They do some jobs together until Nicky abruptly ends the partnership on all fronts.  Then when Nicky is setting his biggest job ever they cross paths again and work both with and against each other while Nicky is working on the job.

What worked

Good casting.  Smith is always good, and Robbie played her part well.  Smith and Robbie are in virtually every scene in the movie and their presence makes the film worth watching while covering up a lot of things that you might otherwise pick at.  Smith and Robbie worked well together, which makes their upcoming turn together in Suicide Squad this summer.  Every heist/con movie needs twists and deceptions and they pack plenty of them in here, especially towards the end.  The running time (104 minutes) helps; if it were longer it’s flaws would be a lot more visible.

What didn’t work

There was a virtual hole in the middle of the movie.  Instead of doing the usual three act story, they extended the first and third acts and didn’t even bother with a second.  They literally jump from Nicky dumping Jess to the surprise reunion prior to Nicky going for the big job.  We have no idea what either one was doing in between, and there’s little to no explanation why Nicky needed to even do the big job.  Did his good fortune at pulling cons fade away without Jess, leaving him desperate for a big score to get back in the black?  Was it revenge?  Were the walls of law enforcement closing in around him, necessitating one more gig that would enable him to retire from the game?  We have no idea.  And what makes him choose Garriga as his mark?  This genre of movie usually have some motivation for the con artist to want to get whoever the big mark is.  They give us nothing here.  It’s like they expected us to be happy watching Will and Margot play scam artists for an hour and a half without any explanation why they were out there.

Final Verdict

It’s OK.  I watched it on HBO when I was home one day, and it’s perfectly fine under those circumstances.  Definitely not something I feel like I missed watching at the theater and not something I’d want to pay for by itself.  It’s a nice little movie an OK diversion for an hour and half or as background TV while you’re doing something else.


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