Arts, Movies

Will Smith Regains ‘Focus’ In Hectic Con-Thriller

3.5 Stars

Following the successful release of his newest film Focus, Will Smith seems to be back in the game. After starring in many mediocre films in recent years, his signature humor and natural talent finally returns, accompanying Wolf of Wall Street star Margot Robbie in a fast-paced film fit for the silver screen.

Master con-man Nicky Spurgeon (Smith) is a high-rolling, exceedingly successful thief. As the unquestioned leader of a 30-person operation—a well organized conglomeration of con men—Nicky is the guy to hire for extremely high-profile cases. A quick thinker and master of deception, Nicky eagerly accepts even the riskiest heists—that is, as long as there is money in it for him.

At the height of his career, Nicky is introduced to a woman who quickly becomes both his greatest asset and his greatest liability. At a nightclub, Nicky meets and is subsequently seduced by a con woman-in-training named Jess. Her attempts, however, to steal from the experienced Nicky are thwarted by his sharp focus and easy recognition of her rudimentary tactics.

The next day, Jess asks Nicky to mentor her, after she researched him and realized he is a seasoned professional in the art of trickery. Nicky agrees to consider adopting her as the newest thief in his crew, but only if she passes a series of tests that will ultimately determine her deft as a con artist.

The group jets to New Orleans, the scene of the Super Bowl. Nicky sees this city—a hotbed for unsuspecting tourists and foolish football fans—as the perfect arena for Jess’ trials of trickery. After effortlessly swiping valuables from a slew of victims, Jess is welcomed into the gang.

Bursting with colorful shots from interesting camera angles, each scene’s aesthetically pleasing elements captured the viewers attention from the start of the film to the end. Additionally, the music chosen for individual scenes worked perfectly with the movie’s concept, adding to both the dramatic and comedic elements that directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa intended to portray. The cinematography plays a crucial role in setting the extravagant, though double-edged nature of this con world.

It does not take long for a budding romance to develop between Nicky and Jess. Unsurprisingly, each new job brings the two closer, making them—quite literally—thick as thieves. Adhering to his father’s advice that there is no room for the distraction of love in their line of work, Nicky realizes he must end the relationship to preserve his reputation and sharp skills. Consequently, when Nicky sends a distraught Jess away with her cut of the money but no explanation as to why he must leave her, the separation of these partners-in-crime leaves both parties heartbroken.

The film’s casting was spot on. Smith’s portrayed a mysterious and cocky con man with natural ease. His delivery of quips added a lighthearted air to the otherwise dramatic film. His con woman counterpart was impressive as well. Robbie’s natural Australian accent was well-hidden by a believable Brooklyn voice.

Despite their individually impressive performances, the romantic relationship lacked the heat it so desperately needed to convince viewers that the two main characters were in fact in love.

Though Robbie is mostly convincing, Smith is noticeably standoffish when interacting intimately with her. For two talented actors, their conversations are often disappointingly forced and artificial.

Jumping three years ahead in the story, Nicky is working for Buenos Aires-based billionaire Rafael Garriga (played by Rodrigo Santoro) to try and secure a motorsport championship by slyly slowing the opposing team’s car down. Coincidentally, Jess is Garriga’s new girlfriend, and Nicky finds himself distracted yet again by her presence. Deciding to carry out the plan for Garriga while simultaneously working to get Jess back, Nicky entangles himself in dangerous situations and an elaborate web of lies.

The rest of the film consists almost solely of suspenseful action scenes and unpredictable plot twists. Secret alliances are revealed and element of trust tested. Viewers are bombarded with new information in almost every scene, which kept them busy as they attempted to focus on the convoluted plot.

While the film was well-written and peppered with the perfect amount of suspense, there were ultimately too many plot twists to keep track of. The film is exhausting. The writers sacrificed the quality of story for quantity of deceptive elements.

Despite its several downfalls and minor mistakes, Focus is an entertaining film that leaves typically inspires appreciation for the detail of its writing and production. Smith’s commendable performance reassures fans that his acting career is still going strong, despite the Philadelphia native’s recent and disappointing release of sci-fi failure After Earth. Sweeping moviegoers into the wild world of con artistry, Focus is an exhilarating action film that is sure to steal your attention.

Featured Image Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

March 16, 2015