"Congratulations, you're a criminal."
A lot of critics claim that Will Smith hit his commercial peak in the 1990s with Independence Day and Men in Black. Then he hit a dramatic peak in the early 2000s with Ali and The Pursuit of Happiness. Recently though, few will deny that he has taken a slight downturn, not around nearly as much as we’ve previously seen him and not in any successful films critically or commercially. With DC’s Suicide Squad only a year away (compared to a lot of the films scheduled that’s very recent) it might be a good time to make a return to the top billing, has he done it here?
A veteran conman (Smith) takes rookie thief (Margot Robbie) under his wing to teach her the ways of his trade. However, when they individually become involved in a major racing heist one wrong turn from just one of them could spell disaster for both of them.
For those of you hoping to see Will Smith in a role that allows him to display some charisma with the necessary dramatic depth to make him stand out in that usual way that he does, then you will not be disappointed. He does have some great on screen chemistry with Robbie in which they complement each other whilst also establishing an interesting character within. The dialogue is well written and performed brilliantly by the two leads, if you want some idea of what they will be like in Suicide Squad then the chances are that it will be like this as it seems to be a good formula and suits their style.
Speaking of style in general, Focus has a lot of it. There’s a lot of glitz and glamour on display to add to the film. It certainly looks like a good con film based on aesthetics at least. Assisted by some brilliant cinematography and lighting the film succeeds in avoiding that flavourless and dreary vibe that Smith fell into otherwise known as After Earth.
I do take issue with the structure of the film though. While singularly the segments are all entertaining and enthralling, the film feels like it’s been split into two sections rather lazily. It features Smith training his newest asset and then of course they enter a new heist, but the training segment takes up half of the film that really isn’t needed, or at least should not be presented in that structure. If they had started off in the big heist then use flashbacks to show the training or abandon the small heist and instead break up the training with some smaller cons in a more episodic fashion then I would be much happier with the overall story.
The reason why Focus would suit a flashback scenario is because I was actually interested in both parts, usually in films with flashbacks I’m much more interested in one aspect than in another, but here I would have loved both parts equally and wanted to explore them both at the same time and to give the movie a pleasing structure.
As well as this the emotional centre of the film is off slightly. Since she is the novice one would think that Robbie is the emotional attachment for the audience, and since he is the wise and all-knowing master Smith should be a supporting character, but instead Focus’ core darts in between them throughout, as if it’s unaware of who to actually concentrate on.
As well as this, as too many heist films eventually do, Focus jumps the shark a bit with its final twist. I can’t really spoil it and I doubt you’ll see it coming because it is rather farfetched in that respect. And as well as this, I can’t help but think to myself that Focus is much more of a quick time killer of a movie rather than something you’d remember for more than a year.
Perhaps too light hearted to be the heavy hitting drama it was advertised as and not quite comedic enough to be classed as a humorous take on the genre Focus feels a bit unfocussed (ironically) but rest assured it is very entertaining.