While I was away in Chicago last week, the crime caper/heist/romance film “Focus” opened in theaters. It’s a film I may have overlooked if it wasn’t for Will Smith and Margot Robbie, and I made sure to fit it into my schedule almost as soon as I returned to New York. I saw “Focus” today, and while I haven’t heard too much spoken about this film, I feel that this is a rather important film for not only Warner Bros. but for the two leads. Why? Well, there’s a small DC Comic film coming out August 5, 2016, the third film in the DC Cinematic Multiverse; it’s called “Suicide Squad” and it stars Will Smith and Margot Robbie!
“Focus” pulls us into the world of con artists and the seemingly seductive world of confidence scams that result in people losing plenty of money, having their identities stolen, and getting hurt. “Focus” isn’t the kind of movie that focuses on the latter parts, instead its wildly attractive. That’s credited largely to the appeal of its leads, directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, and DP Xavier Perez Grobet. The film revolves around a seasoned con man, played by Will Smith, as he meets, mentors, and ultimately falls for Margot Robbie. Smith’s con man, Nicky Spurgeon is the kind of guy most of us would want to be. He once convinced a man that an empty warehouse was the Federal Reserve! He’s slick, charming, has a penchant for gambling, and is Will Smith. It’s a nod to classic cinema anti-heroes that feels like in another time and place it could have become the classic role that people look back on, and quote, like a Bogart or Cagney character. Margot Robbie plays the young, eager to learn, somewhat naive, and incredibly likable Jess Barrett. She plays the role with complete authenticity and while she is a pretty face, she never comes off as just a pretty face. Robbie is an up-and-coming actress and will surely develop a body of work that will ensure her as respected talent. She has great chemistry with Will Smith and the romance/friendship/rivalry between Nicky and Jess lights up each scene. It’s also shot remarkably well by Xavier Perez Grobet and there is not one scene that isn’t beautiful to look at for the sheer value of production.
If there was a downside to “Focus” it would probably be found in the glorification of bad people doing bad things and not much else. Sure, they have their moments of taking a punch to the face and being tortured, but not much else is felt. Personally, it’s not something I take issue with, mainly in part that “Focus” never pretended that it was concerned with the law and ramifications of what con artists do, but it is something that certain audience members may have an issue with. Otherwise, it’s a wild ride and well worth the anticipation of seeing.
Now, let’s get to the part that everyone probably wants to talk about – “Suicide Sqaud.” It’s an aspect that overshadows the film for most fans almost as soon as the Warner Bros. logo appears. I’ve heard many people consider “Focus” a sort of prequel film to “Suicide Squad” in that it features Will Smith and Margot Robbie. Other than both leads, the film shares absolutely no DNA with the DC Comics movie (already in pre-production; the film shoots this April.) Warner Bros. at some point must have recognized the chemistry between Smith and Robbie and you could almost picture someone saying “Hey, these two need to be in our other movie coming out.” At some point director David Ayer agreed and the film fell into place. It would be my informed bet that Will Smith as Deadshot and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn will be the two main leads for “Suicide Squad.” Warner Bros. needn’t worry because while “Focus” did open to the number 1 spot last week ($19.1 million), “Suicide Squad” has a built-in audience (it’s a DC Comic movie and opens 5 months after Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice.) The takeaway is that if Smith and Robbie couldn’t open a movie together and had little to no spark, “Suicide Squad” may be in trouble. But that isn’t the case and it should turn out just fine. Amazingly so if “Focus” is truly an indication of how that film will work.
I have to recommend “Focus” as it’s just the perfect movie to go see while where not quite into Spring. The movie sizzles in all the right places (amazing chemistry between Smith and Robbie), provides beautiful locale (New York City, New Orleans…), and features a performance by Gerald McRaney that offers some highly entertaining quotes (none of which are appropriate to print.)
Just as the tagline suggests, Never Lose Focus. Go see it in theaters today! “Focus” gets four out of five stars.