Sunday, 19 July 2015

Focus

I love a good con movie. Going back to classics like The Sting, modern greats like Catch Me If You Can and even kind of overblown nonsense like Oceans Eleven, if there's a movie out there about con artists, I'll watch it. I know, my standards are so high. I like movies about con artists and I also like both Will Smith and Margot Robbie, so this latest movie sounded like it was right up my alley. However, despite the two leads of this movie being genuinely fantastic in their roles, Focus doesn't ultimately hit the mark, and starts to fall apart after the halfway point.


Directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa and out now on Blu-Ray and DVD comes Focus, a movie that is proper 4/5 entertainment up until it gets to its problematic second half. Focus opens up in a nightclub where we see Nick Spurgeon, played by Will Smith, looking like a suave motherf*cker. A woman named Jess, played by Margot Robbie, approaches him to try and seduce him. However, with Nick being quite the conman, he quickly realizes that Jess is trying to con him. Disappointed and impressed that Nick could see through her con, Jess requests that Nick teach her in the ways of the con. He's reluctant but Jess, through dishing out info on him she found out, manages to persuade him. The first half of the movie focuses on Nick teaching Jess advanced conning methods and putting them into practice. The second half doesn't and it's not as good.


I've always been a huge fan of Will Smith. From watching him for years in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (“Where the videogames?!”), his great action performance in Independence Day and his leading role in Ali, a performance he should have won an Oscar for, I have huge respect for the dude. Then you have Margot Robbie, who despite not seeing in anything yet beyond The Wolf of Wall Street, I think she's a pretty great actress, and one I think will nail the role of Harley Quinn in the upcoming Suicide Squad movie. They're both superb in Focus, and have a wonderful chemistry that runs throughout the movie. This especially comes into play during the first half of the movie when Nick is essentially training Margot. Watching these small-ish cons is a lot of fun and is often pretty tense viewing. For this portion of the movie I was along for the ride, I really enjoyed the characters of Nick and Jess and assumed the whole movie would be about stuff like this. I guess not.

The second half of the movie takes place 3 years after the first, and after Nick and Jess meet up once again after a professional parting of ways, Focus goes down the route of playing on their fractured relationship and, naturally, a big con. That's all well and good, but I was having a blast with the first chunk of the movie, so when the second half just totally felt like a different movie altogether, I ended up not enjoying it as much. Also, the big con near the end of the movie just isn't that interesting. It's got loads of pieces in motion, has its fair share of twists and the like, but ultimately it fails to replicate the tension and style the first half of the movie achieved with smaller sleight of hand cons. Ultimately, for a movie centred around con artists, it kind of loses itself when it tries to deliver on the climatic goods.


Overall Focus is good and it's pretty watchable, but it does get a bit crappy after the halfway point. I wanted a movie totally about Nick training Jess to be as good as him, with their relationship being forged during afinal big con. Instead I got a movie is which Nick trains Jess, they kinda fall in love, they break up, three years pass, they find each other again, and they do a big con. I know a lot of reviewers are cheekily saying that this movie doesn't have “focus”, like it's some original joke or whatever, but seriously, this movie loses focus. For real. That's not a play on words, dear readers.

Focus is fun but loses focus halfway through. 3/5.

★★★☆☆

Denis Murphy


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