Movie Review: Focus (2015)

Posted: October 30, 2015 in Drama
Tags: ,


Nicky (Will Smith) is a con-man, who’s turned stealing small things into big business.  He takes a newbie named Jess (Margot Robbie) under his wing, and teaches her the fine art of the con.  The pair makes 1.2 million during Super Bowl weekend and con a Chinese gambler named Liyuan (BD Wong) out of another 2 million, Jess also falls in love with Nicky.  But Nicky feels that he is getting to close to Jess, and so he gives her 80, 000 dollars and ends the relationship.  Three years later, Nicky is hired by the head of an Argentinian racing team named Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro) to protect an algorithm that Garriga has come up with to make his team’s cars go a little faster than the other cars.  Nicky is supposed to con the other team owners with a fake algorithm. But then Jess shows up in Argentina, and tells Nicky that she is Garriga’s girlfriend, and that she’s gone straight, and given up conning people for good.  What is Nicky’s reaction, does he continue to help Garriga?  Is Jess really Garriga’s girlfriend or is she conning him?

This movie gets off to a good start.  Nicky explains the rules of a good con game to Jess, there’s a little comedy thrown in, it was a really interesting movie for about half an hour,  technically what Nicky and his team were doing in New Orleans was nothing more than glorified pickpocketing, but I was willing to let that go.  The scenes with Liyuan were badly written, I would have done something else entirely.  The con in Argentina was thoroughly uninteresting,  and the re-emergence of Jess was badly written.  I would have done something much more interesting with Jess, another wasted character.

Will Smith is smooth and polished as the con man, he shows that he still has comedic chops too, it was a good performance by Smith in a comeback after trying, and failing to create an acting career for his son Jaden. Margot Robbie is stunning to look at, and she handles the early scenes well, but by the time the movie gets to Argentina, she is used as little more than window dressing, and that is a shame.  Robbie does a great American accent, I did not even know she was Australian, until after I saw The Wolf of Wall Street. BD Wong  was severely underutilized, I would have used him in a different, more interesting way.  He is a much better actor than this movie shows, check out his performance as White Rose in Mr. Robot.

The direction is stylish and shows New Orleans in a glamorous light, great cinematography. Ironically, the directors are the writers, the performances were not that great, so I would say that these directors are not great actor’s directors, so I would say keep the visual aspects of your directing, stop writing completely.

Focus:  Unclear what the point of this movie is.

  1. Raviananda says:

    Oh Focus, what a piece of wasted premise. I love how they introduce conning in terms of taxing the limits of human focus through misdirection.The beginning of this movie did give me hopes for something much more. The movie fell apart at the super bowl scene with the silly reveal of how Smith was really in control of that con. It became more painful to watch after that. While Will Smith was charming as always, it was not enough to carry such a weak plot. They could have done so much more after Nikki and Jess meet again after so many years. This movie just seemed to miss it’s mark time and time again. All the parts that were most likely intended to wow the viewer were set up and executed in a way that inspired skepticism and disappoitment rather than excitement and surprise. This movie is like a very poorly done Oceans movie. Those films play with some crazy stakes and means to achieve an end. But it is all executed in an exciting and somehow believable way. Focus, on the other hand, lacks complexity and suspense. I was not invested in any attempts at suspense in this movie. When Garrigas right hand man is searching through Nickys hotel room, I felt almost no degree of suspense. Whoever wrote this movie stopped trying half way through and it is truly detrimental to this movie. Do yourself a favor and focus on a different movie.

    • It almost seemed like style over substance RN, they got the look of a great caper movie right, but they got the story very wrong. They could have done so much more with the BD Wong character, totally wasted. Margot Robbie was basically eye candy, and Will tried his best, but the script was not great.

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