Focus - This Movie Just About Rocks The Hustle
Dir: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Gerald McRaney, Rodrigo Santoro
It shows how much Will Smith’s star has dimmed that a big studio movie starring the once most bankable man in Hollywood would be dumped in the winter wilds of February. With that in mind as a harbinger, Focus is better than expected.
An old fashioned con movie, that at times seems to want to ape the mood of Soderbergh’s Out Of Sight, the movie stands and/or falls on the chemistry of its two leads, and a smart script that is able to fool its audience as much as they fool their mark. In the former, it works pretty well (even if the romance never really becomes fully believable); in the latter, it works for about two thirds of the picture.
What works best is the way the writer-directors capture the spirit of the con – first the action on the streets of New Orleans as Smith’s 30-strong team pick pockets and lift just about everyone in town. It’s almost scary how easy and organised they make it look, and fully entertaining in how much fun they make it look. This moves into a broodier, more obsessive form of action, with Smith’s gambling addiction throwing all their hard work into serious jeopardy (with a little help from the Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil. “Woo woo” – you’ll see.) It’s a mood shift the film carries off well.
A further tonal shift in the FI-big con themed third act is, well – hate to go there, but less focused, unfortunately. The film’s very nature of who’s conning who, in what way and how much doesn’t hold together as well as the film’s earlier moments. And the romance brought to the fore seems less natural.
Nonetheless, the film remains entertaining, even as its (sign posted) twists and turns become more obvious.
At times like an episode of Hustle brought to the big screen without Robert Vaughn, Focus, overall, has two things going for it. Smith still knows how to be a movie star. And Robbie really is a brand new one.
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