Will Smith (After Earth) is becoming uniquely polarizing. In the beginning of his career, I would’ve wagered that almost everyone loved his affable personality and charming one-liners. Now, it’s hit or miss. Some think he tends to overact or rely on a certain “schtick” in his movies; but I’m still a fan. I appreciate his charismatic humor, and I knew what to expect from his latest movie Focus, a slick caper co-starring Margot Robbie (The Wolf of Wall Street).
The movie begins with a happenstance meeting between Robbie’s character Jess and Smith’s Nicky. Jess is a budding hustler, but quickly meets her match in the seasoned Nicky. After her amateurish attempt to con him, Nicky agrees to show her a few tricks of the trade. From grifter to pickpocket, Nicky has the hustler’s full repertoire and takes Jess under his wing, bringing her in on his latest hustle in New Orleans. Equal parts gambler, swindler, and magician – the silver-tongued Nicky approaches his craft with keen precision.
The second act of the film finds Nicky and Jess honing in separately on the same mark, but for very different reasons. They’re used to playing dangerous games, but the easiest way to get yourself killed is to steal from the wrong person – and one wrong move could make this con their last. Neither is willing to back down from a potential score, but for once is Nicky out of his league? His scheme goes awry when Jess is added to the mix, and their feelings for each other compromise their judgment. Sometimes you have to know when to just walk away.
While Focus was largely entertaining, I can’t say it was completely original. Of course Nicky and Jess have smoldering chemistry from the start. Just look at them. While their sexy banter made sense, it was almost too obvious. The two became an item nearly immediately, which didn’t leave much room for the characters to develop romantically. Admittedly I was surprised when Nicky abruptly ended their brief criminal courtship early on, but it was only a matter of time before they crossed paths again.
I enjoyed Focus, but it’s largely a forgettable movie. It was entertaining, and the plot twist caught me off guard, so I’d say it surpassed my meager expectations. It ranks solidly in the middle of Smith’s catalogue, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Robbie and Smith have undeniable chemistry, and the pair is rumored to reunite in the upcoming Suicide Squad. That film should reinforce Smith as the action hero we’ve come to love, and propel Robbie’s ascending star even further. In the meantime we have Focus, which won’t set the world on fire but was definitely worth watching. Grade: B