Focus – 3/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

FocusFocus – 3/5 – One of the most unique kinds of film’s out there are ones that are based around the ideas of a Con-artist.  With this ‘theme’; a film can go in a variety of different directions.  It can focus on the heist(s), family, loving relationships or politics.  The Con-artist film can take on a life of its own.  That is the case with this new film starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie.  Focus brims with a lot of great elements of what makes a con-artist film great, but it eventually tries to break its ‘grounded’ elements and falls on top of its own twist and turns.  Even for the underwhelming Climax; Focus (as a whole) is a fun and interesting ride.

Premise: In the midst of Con man Nicky’s latest scheme; a woman comes into the Fray. As their relationship bubbles; how can this Veteran make it through his most unbelievable con-artist scheme to date?

As mentioned, there are two stars of the film.  In the main role of veteran Con-artist Nicky is Will Smith.   I’ll mention that Mr. Smith has been in a lot of very bad films the past couple of years; but he does have the potential to be great.  In this film, he proves why he is a great actor.  His charisma within this role pulls you in and makes you believe the relevancy of Nicky’s situation.  He is smooth, calculated and honorably manipulative.  For all the shades of truth that he may disperse, there are a 100 more lies behind those truths.  That keeps you guessing on what his real purpose is; and see the layers within the man that Nicky is.  This causes the feeling to believing he is a ‘real’ con-artist.  He is witty with the dialogue delivery and smooth with his physical interactions; especially with his co-actress lead; Margot Robbie’s.  Robbie plays an up-and-coming con artist by the name of Jess.  Margot Robbie compliments Will Smith manly suave personality with an innocence-like but feisty performance.  Her smarts are just ‘developing’; and she does a great job in presenting a life of a lie; but also shades of flaws within her own human characteristics.   That is what pulls her towards Nicky, as well as what pulls him to her.   There is a layer of romance between them, as much as ‘on the surface’ it is a general ‘student/teacher’ relationship.  It is raw, weird, clever and endearing.  Their relationship is what drives the film, in good and bad ways.   For all the potency it creates within the first half, the film does take liberty and puts emphasize on their relationship a little too much in the second half (more on that later).  Even for that focus (no pun intended) you are still glued to the screen because of their performances.  The rest of the supporting cast you have some familiar names; and you can look at it within the IMDB page.  In an overall perspective; the film does leave these characters to add ‘colorful’ moments within the film.  Even with that added element; it never overwhelms you as cliché, but does present very traditional acting trope for this kind of film.

This film can be broken into two halves of one coin.  The direction encompasses the overall themes of ‘con-artist’ and the ‘heist/jobs’; but at the same time it revolves around the relationship that forms around Jess and Nicky.  The first of the film does a good job in molding the two into the overall story.  Where the film falters is when it flips that ‘coin’ and takes an approach more towards the relationship then the con-artist/heist elements in the second half.  The first half starts off with Nicky (through conning clichés) meeting jess.  From here, we get introduced to the elements of heist, what it means to be a real con-artist, and a student/teacher relationship between the two (at first).  We then follow as Nicky puts Jess through a series of test to get her initiated in his group of con-artist.  We go along a very interesting path, where the film uses common heist elements from other films (Ocean 11, Italian Job, The Town etc.) to create a situation that is unique on its own.  Through the ‘impossible feats’, we are lead to ‘miracle of winnings.’   Everything in the first half is a smaller complexion to something of a bigger heist.   Parallel these heists are the relationship of Jess and Nicky.  The ‘student/teacher’ turns into a more romantic one.  The twist and turns weave in and out in at a genuine pace, as you feel as if there is more to what Nicky is trying to do vs. what Jess really wants.  The film continues on this high, until it moves into the second half. In the second half, the film flashes forward three years, to another situation where Nicky picks up a con-artist job.   This is when the film becomes something of a different experience.  Instead of building on the con-artist/heist themes and the ‘realistic’ approach of the first half, it puts a tonal focus on the relationship between Jess and Nicky.  This causes fragments into the overall themes, twist and relevancy that have been built.  There is a ‘reaching of the stars’ kind of scenario with the unbelievable con situation that is developing, and you begin to question how everything links together.   Once the film hits its climax, the real ‘truths’ within the twist are revealed.  This is when you begin to not believe that this con situation is real; and the film goes to a place of ‘unbelievable’ scenarios.  This brings the film down a notch, causing a breaking in its ‘believable’ trait of the first half.  Even when the film underwhelms, it does end on the note it started with.  It ends on this note with the aspect of what a real con-artist does and how their choices have an effect on the outcome.  The ending is slightly poignant, as it fills with that charm that made the whole film enjoyable.

The visuals of the film take a much grounded approach, helping you focus mostly on the characters and story elements.  There is no plus/minus to the aspect the camera takes to show the cities that are used; but the grounded appeal helps the film in many ways.  The score is non-existent, but that is neither a good or bad thing.

Focus is a film that does entertain; even with the fallacies that encompasses the second half.  Even for the underwhelming climax; you still are pulled in by Will Smith and Margot Robbie performances as Nicky and Jess.  If you’re a fan of either two or like a good con film; this is one for you.  I recommend watching this at a matinee; it is not worth the full price.

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