REVIEW: “Focus”

FOCUS poster

I can’t say I have always shared the general enthusiasm for Will Smith’s movies or his performances. It’s not that he is a bad actor. But, with a few exceptions, he often seems to play variations of the same type of guy. That is certainly not a problem for his fans who have made him a bonafide box office draw, but as someone who doesn’t always care for ‘that guy’ he plays, it can be a turn off.

Smith’s time on the big screen hasn’t been as prominent as during his heyday. He had at least one film (sometimes more) come out every year between 1995 and 2008. “Focus” ushers in a bit of a return to the starring spotlight and once again he is playing a variation of the same type of guy. He’s cool, stylish, cocky, and a bit of a wise guy. Sound familiar? Here he plays a dapper professional con-man with a seemingly endless amount of resources at his disposal. But more on that later.



The story begins with Smith’s character, Nicky Spurgeon, being seduced and conned by a novice scammer named Jess (Margot Robbie). Nicky isn’t fooled and he sees through her amateurish scheme. A few days later Jess approaches Nicky in dire straits begging to be his protegé. Nicky agrees and tests out her sticky fingers on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Impressed by her success Nicky invites Jess to join his crew. A few good scores and a painfully predictable romance follows.

Nicky’s dad always taught him that business and pleasure don’t mix, so he drops Jess after realizing he was falling for her. But obviously the story doesn’t stop there and the two meet again three years later in Buenos Aires. Is it a chance meeting or doesn’t Jess have something up her sleeve? A web of twists, turns, deceptions, billionaires, parties, and race cars make up the second half of the story.


There are times when “Focus” could be called a fashion extravaganza masquerading as a con-artist movie. Some scenes serve only as opportunities for the two stars to show off their good looks, nice physiques, and chic attire. This works well with the aforementioned typical Will Smith character. We get a lot of that here. It’s interesting that the film’s best scene features Smith casting aside that persona and showing us a vulnerable and intensely human side of his character. I won’t build it up but you will know it when you see it.

Ultimately “Focus” is a movie stymied by its amoral vanity, its overload of mediocre twists and turns, and the lukewarm chemistry between Smith and Robbie. If you view it through a very simple and straightforward lens you’ll notice a few fun moments. But it is never as cool or crafty as it tries to be and designer sunglasses, swanky sports jackets, and posh gowns only carry things so far. And even the movie’s title makes you wonder if you are the one being conned because there isn’t a lot of focus here.


2 Stars

24 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Focus”

      • I see him like Hugh Grant. He can do one type of role very very well but there have been some poor film choices for sure. He’ll always be ok with me though because of Fresh Prince.

      • I’m pretty close to you on that. Now that he seems to be back in the spotlight maybe he will branch out. He does have that football concussion picture due out soon. That looks dramatically different than his normal routine.

  1. Nice review, Keith. Ah, Will Smith. I can easily count on my hand where his brand of charisma, like Bruce Willis, has been effective, funny, and charming. Then there are just as many times when he seems miscast, uncomfortable in the character. Focus sounds like that based upon your review. I enjoyed your writing, but will pass on watching the film.

    • Thanks Cindy. You won’t miss a thing. Did you catch my take on “Spotlight”? That is a movie I think you will really appreciate. Much better than this thing.

  2. I agree with everything you said. Focus has way too many twists, to the point the twists completely lost their impact. Too bad, the cast was good and I was hoping for a lot more.

  3. 2 stars is about right for this car crash of a film. You can see the cast all gamely doing their best (although Will Smith looks decidedly bored), but nothing here really “clicks” like it ought. A waste.

    • I agree with you. There isn’t one thing that I would consider memorable about it. Smith is doing his normal thing and no one else brings much at all (writer and director included).

  4. I wanted to see this in the theaters but ended up renting it. Kinda glad I did. Good for one time and not much more. It’s kinda like Ocean’s 12. They got so caught up in the scam to show the viewers that it just got lost and muddled.

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