Interestingly “Focus” intrigued me on a surprising level; not as a “con”, “sting” film, nor as a placid love story, but as a devilish, “slight-of-hand” scenario; anyone who has been a victim (or a potential victim) of invasive thievery will be stunned at the skill and finesse practiced by these artists of trickery, surgeons of stylish, cunning undetected removal of watches, rings, wallets; innocent causalities, emotionally/personally violated, clueless of the perpetrators; malls, theatres, stadiums are hotbeds, breeding venues for training the nefarious neophyte, emerging from a misdemeanor category to a full-fledged felon.
Will Smith, “Nicky”, reigns as the pungently, powerful leader of a massive, highly organized “sting” operation; he’s suave, glib, prescient in the trade; Margot Robbie, “Jess” , a gorgeous recruit, showing amazing aptitude for the profession. The film loses its “focus” in the personal, bland relationship between Nicky and Jess. Robbie’s astounding luminosity, perfect frame, glowing perfection are totally implausible as a con artist; she’s a woman capable of captivating any palpable person. Instead of effervescence the “love” interest fizzles along with the plot.
The supporting roles save the film from complete mediocrity: “Farhad” (hilariously portrayed by Adrian Martinez) is Nicky’s partner (and friend) in the ruse business; “Garriga” (handsome Rodrigo Santoro) a “mark”, is believable as the duped, duplicitous pawn; “Owens” (Gerald McRaney, worthy of more screen time) Garriga’s consigliore, verbally scathes, wounds with his biting verbiage.
Slickness cannot salvage a perpetually pervasive theme, nor touch the iconic 1973, “The Sting”; “been there, done that” resonates from commencement to conclusion.
TWO & 1/2 STARS