Movie Review: Focus

Seasoned conman meets attractive woman, takes her under his wing and falls in love with her, but abandons her only to come across her a few years later? Sounds like a generic rom-com. In fact, we remember Focus was billed as a romantic comedy, a genre that draws ire from moviegoers for being repetitive and uninteresting, with not much of a plot.

Will Smith as Nicky Spurgeon

However, Focus subverts expectations and surprises viewers with its lack of rom-com clichés and emphasis on an actual plot.

Will Smith stars as Nicky Spurgeon, a veteran conman who knows the ins and outs of swindling. He meets the gorgeous Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) in a bar. After Barrett fails to blackmail Spurgeon with her seductive scheme, she asks him to tutor her in the art of conning. The 2 soon fall in love. However, Spurgeon eventually dumps Barrett but later runs into her at one of his big heists.

Will Smith and Margot Robbie

Directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa are known for drawing powerful performances out of Hollywood’s charismatic funny-men with their previous castings of Steve Carell and Jim Carrey in Crazy, Stupid Love and I Love You Phillip Morris respectively. Smith isn’t an exception to their expert directing, successfully portraying a man torn between his love and his job, struggling with his decisions to use Barrett to further his agendas.

After the lukewarm reception to his previous 2 films, Winter’s Tale and After Earth, Smith returns to playing a serious character, with his enjoyable signature cockiness and gunfire wit. He plays the Bad Boy of this film (pun unintended), juxtaposed with Robbie’s starry-eyed and inexperienced Barrett.

Considering her role in The Wolf of Wall Street, Robbie once again proves that she has a flair for acting, transitioning from a rookie in the game to a femme fatale.

Nicky Spurgeon and Jess Barrett

The choice for Focus to well, focus on the action and drama instead of romance resulted in a plot-driven film that had witty writing and genuine chemistry between characters. It did side-line the romance a little, unfortunately.

We’d have preferred to know more about Jess’s backstory but it was reduced to a mere one-liner at the beginning of the film instead. The reveal of Focus’s twist could also benefit from a more progressive pacing, as the bulk of it was shown in the last 20 minutes, leaving us confused as we had to slowly comprehend all the information,

Rodrigo Santoro and Margot Robbie

Still, Focus had its share of memorable moments, such as Spurgeon’s gambling face-off with BD Wong’s character, and when Garriga’s (played by Rodrigo Santoro) insider went to a pharmacy to purchase safety equipment for himself before ramming Spurgeon’s car at high speed – a scene attributed to slick camerawork and directing.

BD Wong

Even Gerald McRaney’s character’s social commentary to Nicky about the overuse of devices and social media in this age was distinguishable from the actual plot and characters of the film, thanks to its incredibly witty writing. These scenes have their own distinct reasons to be remembered, be it camerawork or clever verbal jousting, but these reasons do not culminate in a single scene that wows the audience.

Focus’s main sin would be the fact that aside from being an unexpectedly decent film with excellent casting and directing, it was generally underwhelming in terms of originality. The random close-ups scenes of Margot Robbie’s face framed by Will Smith’s blurry nipples? Doesn’t do it for us at all.


Rating: 3/5


Release Date: Feb 26

Runtime: 104 minutes

Language: English

Censorship Rating: NC16

Genre: Romantic Comedy, Drama

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa

Main Actors: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro


Photos Courtesy of Focus’s Facebook page