I'm pretty sure I was the only person excited about Focus, enough so that I would have paid to see it in theaters (I was too poor. Yes, was.). I'm not sure why though; I'm not the biggest Will Smith fan, but I think its appeal could be attributed to the writer duo behind Bad Santa. But the trailers made this movie look sexy. Cool cars, Margot Robbie, Will Smith, all hot all the time. Eventually I was able to watch it on my awesome Blu-ray player.
Focus tells the story of Nicky (Will Smith), a kick-ass con artist who attracts the likes of fellow con artist Jess (Margot Robbie). Nicky is a sexy con artist, but he doesn't pull sexy cons. He specializes in "volume" because it's "safer that way"; he'll work with a team of a dozen or so, go to an event that attracts a gamut of fat wallets (horse races, tourist traps, etc.) and pick-pocket a bunch of schmucks as a team, because there's no "I" in "Scam Artist." He also does phone scams, fake purses, all sorts of stuff. Anyway, Nicky and Jess fall in love, but Nicky understands that "there's no room for heart in this business." So, once they do complete the sexy Ocean's Eleven-type con (which is just stupid--more on that later) Nicky says "see ya" to Jess and kicks her out.
Jump ahead three years and Nicky has been recruited by a racing team? to pull off another scam, to better their chances of winning a race. But guess what? The racer, Nicky's boss, is Jess' new squeeze! Oooh drama!
It's cool to see how Will Smith and his team of scumbags pull off a hundred mini-heists, no matter how unlikely. Robbie and Smith have great chemistry, and it's refreshing to see a mixed-race couple sharing the big screen in a major studio film (this wouldn't have been made ten years ago). This is a fun movie.
Remember when I said the Ocean's Eleven heist was dumb? It's because it involves Will Smith getting his target, a wealthy gambling man, to pick a specific player on the sideline during the Super Bowl (oops, I meant "the Big Game.") by using subliminal messages, like he was some sort of Cold War sleeper cell. I was fine with it, until the explanation for fixing this game was "Oh, I brainwashed the guy." If you buy it, you can watch the rest of the movie without being let down.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa have balanced comedy and drama in their work (Bad Santa, Bad News Bears), but this time it doesn't work. There are some funny moments, but for the most part it plays like a melodrama. This has the tone of an Ocean's Eleven movie, but Will Smith isn't aware of it; Smith plays it like this is Ali 2 or After Earth. I swear to god there were moments when Will Smith would take twelve seconds to deliver a line of dialog and I was waiting for him to bust out laughing. If Will Smith just said his lines like Chris Rock does animation voices, then the movie would have been smoother and twelve minutes shorter. Then there's a character named Fatass Farhad who is so terrible in so many ways. Clearly the fat guy we can laugh at. He feels like a character from a different movie, maybe one about a Frat house.
The movie tries to get too clever at the end, with so many twists and turns and moments of "oh, so that's why that was mentioned earlier" that culminate in an eye-rollingly unbelievable ending, that you just can't buy it, no matter how sexy the cast is. It tries to be Lucky Number Slevin, but sexier and less violent (to the filmmakers' credit there is very little violence). This is an unbalanced, directorially-challenged mess. The script is filled with atrocious dialog, but the structure is enough to get by. But the second half of the movie didn't add up to the first half. Writers Ficarra and Requa should not have directed.
Leave your brain at home. It's sexy, fun, a little stupid, mostly enjoyable.