Nicky (Will Smith) is a master of misdirection who becomes involved with novice con artist Jess (Margot Robbie). He starts to teach her the tricks of the trade; she is a good student. They begin a relationship and as she gets too close for comfort, he abruptly breaks it off. Three years later, the former flame-now an accomplished femme fatale-shows up in Buenos Aires in the middle of the high stakes race car circuit. In the midst of Nicky's latest, very dangerous scheme, she is an unwanted distraction, throwing his plans for a loop...and the consummate con man off his game.
Review by Louise Keller:
It's slick and fast and crammed with cons both big and small, but it's the irresistible dynamic between Will Smith and Margot Robbie that makes this smoke and mirrors flick so enjoyable. Don't think about the plot too carefully, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's script is pretty ludicrous, constantly pushing the boundaries of credibility, but it's easy to be drawn along the road whose potholes of lies leave us unsure as to who is conning whom. Easy to watch; easy to like.
The settings in the New York, New Orleans and Buenos Aires locations are sophisticated and glamorous, with Robbie looking stunning in a never-ending wardrobe of figure hugging dresses, shorts and skimpy bikinis. 'Die with the lie,' says master conman Nicky (Smith) as he teaches his ingˇnue Jess (Robbie) the tricks of the trade; 'If you get the focus, you can take whatever you want,' he tells her in a nonsensical, albeit attractive scene in the snow, where he demonstrates his nimble fingers.
The rest of the film does exactly that - while we are never sure if Nicky and Jess are on the same team or have the same objective. We (the audience) are never privy to the inner workings of any of the cons, so it is up to us to look at the eyes, the body language and the action in order to make our own assessment. Watch and listen closely - there are clues. Unlike Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, in which the entire film concentrates on one major sting, Focus takes the three bears approach - there's baby bear, mama bear and papa bear - if you get my drift.
Smith exudes his usual charisma and slides back and forth through a labyrinth of plot twists including a humdinger at the Super Bowl and the grand finale sting set in the world of Formula 1. As you would expect, the cons start small and escalate. All the while, the chemistry between Smith and Robbie sizzles and of course Nicky and Jess's on-off romance is constantly in play, the push and pull elements being responsible for much of our enjoyment. The other players are as diverse as they are interesting: BD Wong as a bet-loving football spectator, Rodrigo Santoro as the handsome Formula 1 driver, Gerald McRaney as his right-hand man, Aussie Robert Taylor as his competitor and Adrian Martinez as a computer whizz among other things.
I especially liked the early establishment scenes when Nicky meets Jess (Robbie) at a swish New York restaurant and they soon realize they are both in the same game of manipulation - with Nicky's experience coming to the fore. The settings are plush and the bar scene in which Robbie wears a white fluffy coat, while snow flakes fall gently through the all-glass window behind her, is straight out of Vogue. Xavier Grobet's cinematography is glossy and beautiful, while Nick Urata's music score complements and enhances the edgy mood that directors Ficarra and Requa achieve throughout so successfully. Worth noting, the closing credits show a con artist advisor was engaged for the making of the film.
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FOCUS (2015) (MA15+)
CAST: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, BD Wong, Gerald McRaney, Laura Flannery
PRODUCER: Denise Di Novi
DIRECTOR: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
SCRIPT: Glenn Ficarra, John Rqua
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Xavier Grobet
EDITOR: Jan Kovac
MUSIC: Nick Urata
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Beth Mickle
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 5, 2015