Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama
Directed by: Glenn Ficarra and John Requa
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro
As if the likes of Seven Pounds and After Earth weren’t enough, Focus is yet more proof that Will Smith just hasn’t got “it” anymore. Once Hollywood’s mightiest movie star, Smith has suffered a number of professional calamities over the last few years. And this charmless crime caper is unlikely to breath new life into his already deflating career.
Whether or not Focus actually makes money at the Box Office is irrelevant. Smith’s sustained bankability fails to hide the fact that he can no longer radiate the same compelling charisma he once could. Now he flounders across the screen looking lost, like a fish out of water, desperately trying to recover his mojo with less success than Austin Powers.
If would be easy to lay the bulk of the blame for this film’s failings at Smith’s feet. However it would also be unfair, as the weight of responsibility ultimately lies on the shoulders of writer/directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.
The script, which follows Smith’s veteran con artist Nicky as his professional and personal lives begin to implode in on themselves when he falls for ingénue thief Jess (Margot Robbie), is a patchy and predictable mess that plods from one uninteresting plot point to the next at a persistently lethargic pace. The jokes are flat, much like many of the supporting performances. Although Adrian Martinez does succeed in conjuring up the odd giggle as Nicky’s long-time partner Farhad, Margot Robbie is shamefully segregated to simply being a piece of eye-candy who’s forever failing to form some sort of chemistry with the disappointingly dreary Smith.
Like its leading man’s performance, what Focus ultimately lacks is energy. A clear touchstone for the directors throughout is Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean’s Eleven. But while that was a focused film pulsating with vim and vigour from start to finish and held together by a band of disarming antiheroes, Focus is ironically a very unfocused film that’s about as much fun to experience as a mugging. It struggles to stimulate as either a thriller or a comedy, and never shows enough investment in its leading characters to succeed as a romantic tale of partners in crime.
With the exception of one well-executed early sequence that takes place on the streets of New Orleans during Mardi Gras, there’s no spark or substance here to absorb your interest. Instead Ficarra and Requa try to numb your senses with highly stylized compositions that have more place in a sunglasses advert than they do in a big-budget feature film. By the end all that’s obvious is that it’s not the people on the screen who are being conned, it’s the ones who are watching it.