“Focus” blends two different movies in roughly equal measure. One is a movie about con men, scam artists and hustlers, in the tradition of “The Sting,” “Ocean’s Eleven,” “House of Games” and “Shade.” The second movie is a romantic comedy between two people who are strongly attracted to one another, but who cannot and do not trust each other.
The movie about con men is brilliant. The hustles and scams are clever and cleverly executed with excellent skill and tradecraft. Dramatically, the double-blinds and double- crosses are well executed. The players con their marks, one another and the audience with finesse and aplomb. The cinematography, choreography and editing are crisp. The reveals are plausible within the film’s cosmos of reality.
The romantic comedy is not bad. One can understand and believe the attraction between the two characters. Will Smith’s character is hunky, clever, confident, successful and wealthy. Margot Robbie’s character is gorgeous, sexy, vulnerable, clever and charming. But the major plot points in this boy finds girl, boy loses girl, boy wins girl back subplot seem contrived, while the intriguing aspect of their relationship (How can two con artists with a history of deceiving one another learn to trust one another?) isn’t explored in a satisfactory manner. Instead we get a breakup for reasons that are never explained, a repeated gag involving a wallet, and a massive coincidence that leads the audience to believe one of them has a hidden agenda involving the other. The relationship between them works best when they are conning one another, but it needs resolution.
Technically, the film is beautifully done. Cinematography, locations, wardrobe, make-up, editing, audio — everything is polished. It’s a movie that merits a second or third viewing, not only to see the cons played out, but also to appreciate some of the subtle foreshadowing.
7 out of 10 stars