The problem with a “con” film is that, by its very nature, all is not what it seems. So we expect the so-called “unexpected” and should “delight” in the moment it happens. The thing with Focus is, while such things happen at regular intervals during the proceedings, we’re neither delighted nor surprised in the “con” mechanism. You see, there are “tells” within the narrative construct signalled with such dumbfounding obviousness that even a blind person can see them.
While the directors – Glen Ficarra and John Requa – delighted me with their Steve Carell vehicle Crazy, Stupid, Love, Focus is a bit of a dud. It could be that the former was from a script by someone else, while the latter is their own material. Either way, I’m guessing writing isn’t really their strong-point. There were moments during Focus when I hoped to be elevated beyond my malaise, even a point early on when I almost had an epiphany, but alas twas not to be. Focus slipped back into its standard, by-the-numbers formula and the moment passed. There are no whistles and bells in the direction department either, but sometimes a well shot, classically edited movie is all that is needed. A couple of flourishes here and there were a welcome distraction as the film progressed and when you’re shooting Will Smith and Margot Robbie it’s always going to look great.
I’ve seen Margot Robbie in two films now – the first being The Wolf of Wall Street – and I’m getting the feeling she’s really only present on our screen for a bit of eye-candy. Granted, any actor worth his or her salt will do almost anything to get a gig with Martin Scorsese – Jonah Hill took rock-bottom minimum wage to be involved – so it’s no real surprise that Ms. Robbie used all her assets for that role. The thing is, while it’s never that revealing during Focus, I’m sure the costume department didn’t have to worry about the amount of fabric needed to clothe her. I’d like to think she’s a damn good actor and hope to see her in something that doesn’t just rely on the viewer gazing upon her assets and not worrying about whether she can actually act.
Margot Robbie as Jess
As for Mr. Smith, well there’s only so many average films he can open these days before people start to finally cotton on. He’s made some interesting movies in the intervening years, but quite frankly he’s in desperate need of a hit and this, unfortunately, isn’t it. Playing someone with underlying issues – seemingly “broken” so-to-speak – is the de rigueur stance these past few years. Same-old-same-old and it doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. Some may point to MiB 3 as a change from the norm, but quite frankly there’s no polishing that turd. If Mr. Smith wanted to do a sequel, then why not jump aboard the good ship Independence Day and watch the money come flooding in? Now, you may not like Roland Emmerich, but he knows how to get bums-on-seats and his films are always enjoyable! And that’s what cinema is all about, right? To leave the theatre feeling something; to experience an emotional connection.
Gerald McRaney as Ownes
As for the supporting cast of Focus, well special mention should definitely go to Brennan Brown (yes, the guy from the Orange 2for1 ads), Adrian Martinez (he’s so excited to be in Focus his IMDb profile pic is a selfie with Will Smith) and the always excellent Gerald McRaney (catch him in the wonderful House of Cards on Netflix). In all fairness, I’m sure there will be worse films on release when Focus comes out on 27th February, so it won’t be an utter waste of your time. At least half the audience I watched it with – and there were quite a few – did all the right things in all the right places. Just don’t be surprised that you’ve probably seen it all before.
Thank you for reading 🙂