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2-19-2016 MOVIE REVIEW: FOCUS (2015)

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In directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s 2015 crime-romance film “Focus” starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie we are given an inside look into the life of a professional kleptomaniac known simply as “Nicky” who has made millions of dollars committing petty crimes using distraction. Nicky’s future protégé “Jess” (Robbie), whom he meets at a bar, is as equally gifted in the game.  The two fall in love and it’s the start of an on again off again relationship for the remainder of the film. The opening scenes hold the audience’s attention because few have seen anything quite like it: Warehouses full of stolen gold and jewelry, hundreds of thousands of dollars being pushed through bill counters and then there’s mention by Nicky of pulling off the greatest heist to date at the Super Bowl. Though Nicky is certainly gifted at stealing, one of his many downfalls is that he is a degenerate gambler who lives life on the edge and doesn’t know when to call it quits; this is seen when he bets away his fortune (and others) in the Super Bowl luxury suite. After the big loss he is forced with no options other than to somehow recover the money before it’s too late.  Ultimately he goes back to what he’s best at, ripping people off, which he plans to do to a wealthy Formula 1 team owner after arranging a meeting. Up until this point the picture sets itself up quite nicely, but then the story becomes utterly predictable and the film begins to slide. Come to find out Nicky’s father is in the same pickpocketing business and the two have secretly devised a plan to double cross the owner and take his money. No mention of this is made to the audience but as the chemistry between father-son plays itself out you can spot the sequences from a mile away. All of this said, I thought the film was average.  Will Smith, who has grown on me as an actor over the years (particularly because of his performances in “I am Legend” (07) and Seven Pounds (08)) did a fine job of playing with the cards he was given but I thought the story itself was flat and unoriginal.  Yes, heading into the film I was expecting faster paced action, but at times it seemed to move along too slowly.  Over the years I’ve seen far too many pictures where someone gambles their fortune away and resorts to some insane measure in order to get it all back (which of course usually leads to even more problems –see “Rounders” (98) “The Gambler”(14). I will say this; the chemistry between Smith and Robbie is hot and obviously there. This isn’t a bad film by any means, but I felt the script could have been more developed which would have kept the typical audience member more engaged.(**/****) -AR

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