Will Smith returns to the big screen in Glen Ficarra and John Requa‘s latest R-rated drama Focus, also starring Margot Robbie. Focus is Smith’s first dabble into something interesting in years, having taken a leave of absence after the forgettable After Earth and the safe (but still entertaining) Men in Black 3.
Now, Smith is back in the driver’s seat in a film that dips its toes into drama, comedy and romance — all aimed at an adult audience for a change. Focus isn’t without its missteps, but it mostly delivers as a whole, thanks to its leading cast and pair of continuously impressive directors.
Nicky (Will Smith) is an established con man. He’s the best of the best and his name actually means something to those looking to get into the game and never get caught. His wit and constant focus have led him to a successful career that has also taken a toll on his personal life, which has pretty much been unconventional since birth.
Now, he’s prepping for one last job, but an old friend (Margot Robbie) from the past comes into play unexpectedly and now he must yet again work his magic unlike anyone else.
Revealing anymore of the plot to Focus would be redundant, because Glen Ficarra and John Requa‘s latest is a clever blend of romance and drama, tightly packed into 104 minutes that is better discovered than spoiled.
It’s not that Focus is all that twisty to anyone that’s seen a movie or two, but most audience members going in with low expectations might just be surprised with how efficient Ficarra and Requa are as directors that have successfully managed to spin such an entertaining story based off a less-than-stellar marketing campaign that has definitely confused the film’s plot to the public through some so-so trailers.
Focus isn’t just a crime caper/heist film and it’s not exactly a straight-forward romance. Instead, it blends together both worlds of film and creates something that uniquely rests in the middle. Will Smith and Margot Robbie help strike notes in both of the genres, while Ficarra and Requa’s approach from a writing and directing standpoint remain the deciding factor on if Focus cracks or holds under its own pressure.
It holds and it holds well. Ficarra and Requa’s ability to structure a film that moves so quickly and is constantly changing moods and emotions is great and they’ve also got an eye for subtle, yet effective humor. They proved this in the past with the incredibly funny and under-rated gem I Love You Phillip Morris and they also helped shake up the traditional romantic dramedy genre with Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Both of those films achieve what they set out to do, while Focus smartly blends in elements from both, while also injecting a bit more style.
It helps that Will Smith is more on the ball here than he has been in the past decade, which is a breath of fresh air and a reminder that the man can deliver if he actually focuses (see what I did there) and puts his mind completely into the project. Smith’s constant coolness is rarely annoying and almost always fascinating, plus he hasn’t exactly done much R-rated work these days.
Margot Robbie counteracts Smith’s smarts and style with a female lead that’s equally smart and stylish, yet just a dash more sexy. Seriously, Robbie has all of the boxes checked and her talent shines through the screen and is never outweighed by Smith’s experience or popularity. Focus is just as much Robbie’s film as it is Smith’s and that’s not exactly the biggest compliment when you factor in Smith’s recent career choices, but that’s still a big plus for the film, which could have been a lopsided mess anchored down by Smith alone.
Focus does have some third act moments that require audience members to really believe in the film and take it at face value and if you’re okay with letting some Hollywood logic takeover then you’ll absolutely enjoy this film. It would have been the perfect Valentine’s Day release to help fend off Fifty Shades of Grey, because it really does have just about everything in it, but unfortunately it will probably earn a modest amount and be considered a break even type of film for WB, which is slightly alarming.
Focus should do good business, because it’s a good film that mostly respects its audience and delivers on all of the entertaining promises that it presents. It does this in a way that’s both exciting and unexpected. Glen Ficarra and John Requa have done it again, only this time in a bigger spotlight, with an A-lister like Smith and an up-and-comer like Margot Robbie. I hope this film opens up more doors for them and I also hope that this film marks the much-needed comeback for Will Smith as an actor worth giving a damn about again.
Focus – 8/10