Will Smith has gone through a bit of a rough patch recently. After Earth, Men in Black 3, Hancock and Winter’s Tale (which I’m sure he’s happy most people don’t know he was in) have all been moderately well received at best. That string of films combined with recent rumours about his personal life, and reports of him acting like a prima donna behind the scenes have done some serious damage to his image. He still has his fans however, and combining him with Margot Robbie in her first major role since The Wolf of Wall Street could be exactly what he needed to start rebuilding his cool guy image.
It’s a shame that this film doesn’t really deliver on any level. Yes, Will Smith is funny and charming, but that’s pretty much all Focus has going for it. Margot Robbie unfortunately doesn’t add anything, and comes across as an annoying, whining and weak damsel, and while some of the blame has to go to the poor writing, a stronger actress could have made this a very empowered character.
Essentially, this is a film about con-men, and films that cover this topic almost always have some big twists and reveals, and Focus is no exception. I’m a sucker for a twist, and I would even go so far as to say a good twist can turn a bad film into a watchable one. The thing is, a twist needs to have enough set up so that you believe it without question, but not so much that you can see it coming. Focus has neither of these. A few of the reveals I could have guessed going in (and did), and the other ones were so out of the blue that they were just stupid.
There are some good things in this film. Some of the scenes where they’re in full grift mode are good. They’re well filmed, slickly executed, the music is suitably cool and they’re actually quite believable. Some of the supporting characters are good. Adrian Martinez contributes some good laughs as the strange sidekick. Brennan Brown might look like a discount Kevin Spacey, but he anchors the film well. Best of all is BD Wong, who basically plays a slightly more realistic version of Mr Chow from The Hangover.
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