review – focus


This is fizzy, frothy fun. And it all works better if you don’t focus too closely.
The leads (Will Smith and Margot Robbie) are likeable, even charismatic; any question about their uneven chemistry may be answered by the premise of the story: In a movie about “conning” others, we wonder if an emotional attraction is part of the con. When we first meet them, she is scamming, he is hustling. He’s experienced, she’s eager to learn. He gives her some lessons, teaches her to “focus.” They end up working together and the complications – and the cons – that ensue from that relationship carry us through the movie. The plot is thinly written, overly “talky” in several places, sometimes wandering in too many directions, struggling to find interesting double-crosses to hold our attention.

Every scene is polished to a high gloss; the city glows neon at night, endless parties are filled with beautiful, expensively-dressed people; but this is Smith and Robbie’s movie.He anchors the plot and directs the scams, both with a sense of confidence and loose control. There’s jauntiness to his delivery, but as the camera moves in to show us his eyes in close-up, we see a touch of weariness there. Smith has some mileage on him these days. The real magic is in Robbie’s performance. She’s sincere, with a sparkle in her eyes, a sexiness in her voice, and a great sense of comic timing. She’s eager, sometimes naïve; is she the “player” – or the one being played? There’s no nudity; often Smith wears fewer clothes that Robbie. And while there is some sex, it’s mostly implied, the camera doesn’t show us anything we don’t need to see. But there are also no raw emotions, no feeling of originality, no real sense of suspense, no thrillingly-memorable moments. The great movie cons (think “The Sting,” “Sixth Sense,” “The Usual Suspects”) leave us feeling somewhat foolish – even a bit breathless. Not so with this one. When it’s over, it’s over. It’s all just enjoyable entertainment – and at this time of year, that may be enough.