Focus

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Seasoned con-man Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) goes to a nightclub, where an inexperienced grifter, Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie), seduces him, and then pretends they’ve been caught by her jealous husband. When the deception fails, Nicky advises them never to lose focus when faced with unexpected situations. Jess finds him in another nightclub a few days later and convinces Nicky to become her mentor. Nicky tells her about how his father, a con man named Bucky Spurgeon, was forced to shoot his grandfather when a con went wrong, a maneuver he calls “the Toledo Panic Button”.

Nick takes Jess to New Orleans, where she is introduced to Nicky’s crew, including the obese and profane Farhad (Adrian Martinez). She picks a few pockets as a test, and soon Nicky and Jess develop a romantic relationship, upsetting Nicky, who was taught by his father to never become emotionally involved with anyone in their line of business. At the 17th Associated Football Franchise of America Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Nicky gets into a round of increasingly extravagant bets with gambler Liyuan Tse (B.D. Wong), eventually losing all of the money the crew has earned. To win it back, Nicky asks Tse to pick any player off the field and says that Jess will guess the number picked. A distraught Jess scans the field and notices Farhad wearing jersey number 55 and realizes it is another con. They take Tse for millions of dollars, but Nicky, wary of his growing emotional involvement, leaves Jess by the side of the road with her cut.

Three years later, Nicky is in Buenos Aires, working for billionaire motorsport team owner Rafael Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro). Garriga needs to beat a team headed by Australian businessman McEwen (Robert Taylor) to win the championship. Nicky will pretend to be a disgruntled technician on Garriga’s team willing to sell Garriga’s custom fuel use algorithm EXR. Instead he will sell McEwen a bogus version which will slow their car down during the race. At a pre-race party, Nicky runs into Jess, who is now Garriga’s girlfriend. Nicky has a convincing fight with Garriga in public and is recruited by McEwen to provide the component.

Nicky begins pursuing Jess again, and they eventually rekindle their relationship. The head of Garriga’s security entourage, Owens (Gerald McRaney), is suspicious and narrowly misses catching the two together. Nicky delivers the component to McEwen for three million euros but also sells it to the other teams for similar amounts.

Nicky and Jess attempt to return to the United States together. However, they are caught by Garriga’s men and taken to Garriga’s garage. Nicky has actually sold the real EXR to all of the various teams. Nicky gained access to EXR through a necklace he had given to Jess, which secretly recorded Garriga’s password and login information. Jess knew nothing about this. However, Jess then reveals that she was only trying to seduce Garriga in order to steal his valuable watch. Nicky promises to come clean in order to spare Jess’s life but Owens shoot him in the chest, causing a horrified Garriga to leave. Owens then reveals himself to be Nicky’s father, Bucky, and assures Jess that he avoided any major arteries. He simply employed the “Toledo Panic Button.” Bucky then tapes up Nicky’s wounds and draws excess blood out of his son’s chest with a metal plunger so that he can breathe again. They flee the garage in Garriga’s vehicle.

Bucky drives Nicky and Jess to the hospital to treat Nicky’s punctured lung and departs with Nicky’s money as a reminder of the consequences of losing focus. After he leaves, Jess reveals that she snatched Garriga’s watch before he left the warehouse, and a smiling Nicky and Jess then go into the hospital together.

REVIEW:

Will Smith seemed to disappear from movies the past few years, with the exception of one or two films that were utter flops and shoving his kids down our throat. Now that he’s realized what a pox on civilization his offspring are, hopefully he can get back focused on his own career. With film like the upcoming Suicide Squad and Focus, it looks like he’s back and better than ever, but is this a film that will help or hurt his career?

What is this about?

After falling for his pretty young protégé, expert con man Nicky Spurgeon ends their romance when he realizes it will only complicate matters. But his decision comes back to haunt him when she turns up later on the other side of Nicky’s newest scam.

What did I like?

Hitch Prince. Will Smith has had some memorable characters throughout his career. The guy he plays here, Nicky, has some qualities of guys he played in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Hitch. With the Fresh Prince, there is the charismatic, con man, asshole that you still want to cheer for. In terms of Hitch, the confident advisor to those up and coming is a throwback to the matchmaker. Now that I think about, who is to say that Nicky isn’t one of these guys? We don’t know what happened to Will after the show went off the air and Hitch got out of the matchmaking business, but who is to say he didn’t take up another profession?

Mix and match. I heard some rumors about Smith and Margot Robbie having an affair. I cannot confirm or deny those reports, obviously, but watching them interact throughout this film, especially in more intimate scenes, the chemistry they have makes you wonder if something really is going on, a la Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. That said, these two will be teaming up again in the forthcoming Suicide Squad movie. I anxiously await to see more of the same “are they or aren’t they” vibes.

Slight of hand. The techniques used to get the better of the “marks” was quite impressive. Starting with the scene in which Smith is giving Robbie a few tips while robbing her blind by just diverting her focus elsewhere, the audience is shown something so impressive that can easily be done without the use of special effects *GASP* This kind of thing happens throughout the entire picture, making the audience grab at their wallets/purses, especially if they managed to bump into someone today.

What didn’t I like?

Decide on a tone. Bending genres is one thing, but you must have a genre set before you can bend it. That is an issue with this film, it doesn’t have a tone to build from. I couldn’t tell if this was trying to be a drama, thriller, comedy, or something else. The confusion among the tone kept me from really getting into the film, unfortunately. I can’t say for certain this would have worked better in this genre or that, but I will say that one needed to be set so that the audience wouldn’t feel so lost.

Major dad. Gerald McRaney has been a thorn in my side since junior high. Why? Well, when you dad becomes a major around the same time a show called Major Dad is on the air, you can imagine the jokes kids have. What is my issue with him in this film? He reminds me of the hitman from Breaking Bad, whose name slips me at the moment. There is so much of a similarity, I wonder why they just didn’t cast that guy instead. McRaney is more than a capable actor. Surely he could have something more to make this character his own.

Give them ideas, why don’t ya? New Orleans is about an hour away from here. Watching all the tricks that were done to steal got me thinking. As cool as they look on-screen, why are we giving lowlife scum ideas? New Orleans is already a crime ridden cesspool and giving the criminals ideas on how to get better is just idiocracy, yet that is what this film has done. I know who to blame is my identity comes up missing after a trip to the Big Easy.

Again, it is great to see Will Smith back and focused on his own career. Focus is all about him, we don’t see or hear anything about the offspring that seemed to have ruined is career the past few years and in their place is the beautiful Margot Robbie. I’d say that’s an upgrade or a fair trade, depending on how you look at things. Do I recommend this picture? Yes, while not the best thing Smith or Robbie, for that matter, have made, this could be something to randomly turn on and enjoy at any time. Check it out sometime!

3 3/4 out of 5 stars

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