Focus is a movie designed for Smith – a light-hearted caper about the con game. And it manages to con both the viewer and the unfortunate characters in the film with equal success.
There are plenty of plot holes, but these are quickly papered-over by an intriguing script and loads of fun moments. While the pace may tend to flag at times, Focus remains a cleverly woven, sleight-of-hand escapade.
The chemistry between Smith and attractive co-star Margot Robbie (best remembered for her role in Martin Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street) doesn’t quite work. It’s an underplayed romance that never gets going.
However, there is plenty to savour – with more twists and turns than a corkscrew – as master conman Nicky (Smith), a slick operator with unparalleled skills, relentless focus and a massive gambling problem, launches himself on an unsuspecting world.
In a dramatic confrontation at a football game, Nicky’s gambling mania kicks in big-time as he takes on a slick Asian gambler (BD Wong) and the two ratchet up the stakes in a unrelenting betting war.
When not working alone, he relies on a talented team of 30-odd associates whose job is to work together to steal as much as they can quickly and surreptitiously.
He is not concerned with one big score, believing that volume derives income. He ropes in a new apprentice, Jess (Robbie), who has raw capabilities which Nicky intends refining. In the process, he succumbs to her charms – that is until he rudely dumps her.
Over a period of time the movie hops from New York to New Orleans and onto Buenos Aires where the biggest con of all is executed on the Formula One circuit. In New Orleans there is an imaginative sequence during the carnival which demonstrates how one can turn the art of pickpocketing into a balletic movement.
The inclusion towards the end of the snarling Gerald McRaney (the veteran TV star best known for starring roles in Major Dad and Simon & Simon) in Buenos Aires adds venom to the proceedings.
Stylishly directed and co-written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy Stupid Love), Focus is an engaging romp into the devil-may-care world of the con man.