Focus is essentially what would’ve happened if David O. Russell made American Hustle follow through with its promotional material. In other words, if it were actually entirely about cons. And while American Hustle had far more charm, if you only liked the first and last ten minutes of that movie (the two cons), then Focus isn’t the worst way to spend your time at the cinemas.
Will Smith and Margot Robbie team up to show us how professional conning is done, along with how to have an extremely unconvincing relationship over the course of four years. Here’s the issue with this movie: the cast is mad small, so when the relationship between the core two players is mediocre, it sours the whole experience. It’s not a horrible relationship, by any stretch, but it just feels so double-guessing and contrived for the sake of propelling the plot forward that I couldn’t really root for the overdone sex prelude scenes. And boy, is there a lot of lust with no reward in this movie. Half of Margot’s screen time is just her rubbing up against Will, yet we only see an exposed tit once, for maybe a fraction of a second. It’s an underwhelming silver lining.
Actually, that bit about underwhelming silver linings pretty much sums up my feelings towards Focus. There are amazing aspects to this movie, such as the fantastic set design. Remember that one scene from Skyfall where Bond is in that glass skyscraper at night with all the lights bouncing off the walls and stuff? Picture an entire movie of amazing aesthetics such as that. Buenos Aires looks especially colorful and inviting, even if everything is slightly too sterile looking to the point where it’s kind of off-putting. What I’m trying to say is, the visual design of the movie is stellar overall. And Margot Robbie was great in her role, definitely solid. Smith was great as well, playing the con artist perfectly, but he just didn’t seem to click believably with Robbie, part of that stemming from bad chemistry and part of it from the shoddy relationship dialogue.
Overall, if you want a more focused con movie than American Hustle, check out Focus. It’s a 6/10 in my book, nothing to run out and see this very second but a worthy watch if you have a con-artist itch to scratch like I did.