Focus is one of those films that appeared in the listings without prior invitation. I hadn’t watched the trailer and it didn't register with me that it was a Will Smith film until his name appeared in the opening credits. I had no idea what to expect but sometimes taking a punt on a random film works out surprisingly well. Basically, if it is in the listings on a Saturday afternoon I will see it.
PLOT: Conman Nicky (Will Smith) takes Jess (Margot Robbie), a young pickpocket, under his wing and mentors her in the ways of being a successful con artist. After their friendship turns into something romantic Nicky leaves Jess in the lurch only to run into her several years later while he is attempting to pull off the con of the lifetime causing him to lose his…………wait for it………………………Focus(!). Roll Credits. END PLOT
The plot has enough twists and turns so that it always remained half a step ahead of me and it was an entertaining ride but, meh, I’ve seen it all before. The tone was all over the place as the film didn’t quite know what it wanted to be; Focus wasn’t as fun as Oceans 11, the supporting characters weren’t memorable enough to make it Fast Five and it wasn’t arrogant enough to be Now You See Me. It plods along, albeit very stylishly, and ticked off all the boxes in the ‘crime caper romp’ cheat sheet.
Will Smith is always watchable but his easy charm was in a constant battle with his desire to over-emote and act. Smith is at his best when he is having fun but he took it all a bit too seriously to just give in and enjoy himself.
I’ve known Margot Robbie since her time on Neighbours* and she has made the transition from soap star to film star with ease. There were a few moments when it felt like she was putting more effort into her American accent than her performance but for the most part she was fun to watch and had decent amounts of chemistry with Smith. I suspect Robbie is going to be very busy over the next couple of years so we will be seeing lots more of her and her amazing hair in the near future. It turns out that I am okay with this.
Thankfully the chemistry between Smith and Robbie just about saves the film. It has little else to offer as Focus simply isn't as clever as it thinks it is. Focus is clearly aiming for an audience over and above the 12A brigade but the script needed to have tension and drama instead of relying on a wide range of swear words, oral sex jokes and Margot Robbie’s figure to get by. Focus gets 5/10. It is a fun watch in the cinema but by the time you get to the car park your mind is already focused elsewhere, most likely on dinner.
*my interest in Neighbours died with Dr Lawson. RIP Rhys, RIP.