It seems strange to say that in a movie with Will Smith in a leading role, the real star is an up-and-coming Australian actress, but Margot Robbie isn’t just any Australian actress. She was Leonardo DiCaprio’s second wife in The Wolf of Wall Street, and managed to steal just about every scene away from him. In the near future, she’ll be playing Jane in the adaptation/sequel Tarzan, and she’ll be Harley Quinn in DC’s Suicide Squad. Needless to say, she’s incredibly talented. In fact, I’d argue that she’s actually too talented for a movie like this. Her character in Focus is written as basically a prop, a cut-and-dried femme fatale, but her performance refuses to accept these restraints as she creates a multi-layered character. She owns the screen with such ease that it appears as if her character is much more important than it actually is.
Focus falls under the category of a romantic-comedy heist film. The story is split into two different sequences, three years apart. In the first sequence, Nicky (Will Smith), a master of deception, meets Jess (Margot Robbie), a talented amateur. Together, with the help of thirty other supporting characters, they pull off various small crimes in New Orleans, make millions, and fall in love. After an awkward separation, they meet again in Buenos Aires under drastically different circumstances.
As previously mentioned, Margot Robbie is a joy to watch from start to finish. She steals the show, but that doesn’t mean that Will Smith is bad. He doesn’t give much of a performance, but he’s incredibly charismatic. Of course, it’s not all that shocking that Will Smith has charisma on-screen, but he is still fun to watch. The film also boasts Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro, and Adrian Martinez as members of the supporting cast, who all serve their purpose well.
This is one of those movies that the more you think about it, the stupider it becomes. A big theme of the film is distraction and manipulation of focus. In the film’s plot, this is used to pick pockets and cause victims to make bad choices. Many characters say that they make people see only what they want them to see. The film’s writers/directors seem to want to this theme additionally in regards to the movie as a whole, as there are numerous plot twists throughout. However, the filmmakers don’t have nearly enough control over the film to make this idea effectively work, and most of the twists are more groan-worthy than they are surprising.
The film is still very entertaining though. All of the heist scenes are shot like quality action sequences, with lots of intricate choreography and a fast pacing. If you don’t think too much about the details, it becomes very enjoyable. At times it often feels like a discount Oceans Eleven, but it’s never uninteresting. It’s stylish and fun and stupid, and I guess that’s all it needs to be. 6/10.