“Focus” relies a little too much on style and wildly unexpected twists to carry it through. However, thanks mostly to the charisma of its two stars, it manages to get itself out of obligatory territory — most of the time.
Will Smith stars as Nicky Spurgeon, a professional con man who meets and falls in love with a grafter, Jess (Margot Robbie of “The Wolf of Wall Street”). Soon, he’s teaching her the ropes of how to pull off perfect cons. However, he’s also breaking his one rule of never getting emotionally involved with someone.
Some of the movie’s cons are just flat-out entertaining to watch, such as the scene where Spurgeon and Jess go to New Orleans for a football game and match wits with a compulsive gambler. They bet on everything from the exact plays made on the field to the numbers on the players’ jerseys. I don’t know if you could necessarily pull off some of these cons in reality, but it was interesting to think so.
After going their separate ways, Spurgeon travels to Buenos Aires and sees that his one-time protégé has become an experienced con artist herself. Naturally, she shows him what she’s learned.
This is not a major Will Smith movie, but it is surprisingly watchable nevertheless. The screenplay by co-writers/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa always manages to keep the audience on its toes, even when it goes a little too far into being preposterous. The climax is a fine example of that.
However, there is a lot of style, energy and enthusiasm from its two stars as they try to outwit each other and their competitions. “Focus” probably won’t be a blockbuster for Smith, but it will erase the memories of the gargantuan bomb that was “After Earth.” And that’s no con.
(Rated R for language, some sexual content, and brief violence.)
Hall is a syndicated columnist in South Georgia.