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“Focus” is a balancing act between a decent heist movie and an alright romance. The heist is quiet – a gun is fired only once – and otherwise there’s mostly conversation, sleight of hand, deceit, and the relationship of the two leads.
Nicky (Will Smith) is an expert con artist whose techniques seem almost magical. On one of his days off, he stumbles upon Jess (Margot Robbie), a woman with a lot of potential, who is perhaps too ambitious searching for the “big con.” Once Jess grows fond of Nicky, he dumps her from his life and syndicate. Fast forward three years, and Nicky is on another con. Who should he find but Jess, who may (or may not) be working on a con of her own.
“Focus” has a few things going for it. The camerawork is smooth and fluid, and the color palettes work splendidly. At night, the world gets a mellow blue tint.
Will Smith has more charisma here than in his role in “After Earth.” He comes with his finely honed craft, fooling the viewer at some points like the marks he is playing. He explains every con in a clear and engaging way.
This movie wants audiences to know that what truly matters is not the heist, but the relationship between Nicky and Jess, which is not all that serious, more like best friends or business partners. True to the movie’s lighter character, it does not take itself too seriously. It is not a perfectly written film (some of the characters’ reactions to certain situations seem dulled down), but it will keep most viewers invested till the end.
Will and Margot do have a bit of chemistry, and the side characters contribute some engaging comedy. There is a pervy fat man named Farhad (Adrian Martinez), whose statements would get most people locked up for sexual harassment.
But for all that it is hard to recommend this movie. The plot feels sophomoric at points. If it were not for the headliners, the movie would slip out of focus and below the radar. My recommendation: It is a good film to watch on demand when there is nothing else to do, or when it meets its destined fate as an FX feature presentation. Then it can be recorded on DVR.
Josh Wilson is a senior at Evanston Township High School.