Focus

 

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A polished crime caper largely powered by the chemistry of its two stars: Will Smith and Margot Robbie.

 
  Focus
 

The art of the con trick is distraction. And you don’t get much more distracting than Margot Robbie. Having got Leonardo DiCaprio all hot and bothered in The Wolf of Wall Street, the actress now cements her stardom as the romantic co-star of Will Smith in this slick, $50m crime caper. Like a young Sharon Stone with comic timing, Ms Robbie keeps the balls in the air of this sparkling high-stakes chicanery. 

 

Will Smith is Nicky Spurgeon, the diehard defrauder who uses his charm and confidence to win over the hearts and minds of even the most cynical. He also has uncanny instincts. He certainly cottons onto the limp charade played out for him by Jess Barrett (Robbie), a small-time con artist who is so out of his league. Still, sexual distraction will out and so Nicky takes Jess under his wing and uses her assets to help acquire a cool $1.2m in just one fruitful week in New Orleans. But that’s just the start… 

 

Glenn Ficarra and John Requa's Focus bounces along deliciously for its first half, powered largely by the chemistry whipped up by its co-stars. But like all films of this stripe, the hors d’œuvre proves more appetizing than the main course. You can con an audience for some of the time… Still, Focus offers up a lush visual palette, enhanced by the exotic locales of New Orleans and Buenos Aires and the relentlessly disarming grin of Will Smith. And there’s a show-stopping turn from Gerald McRaney as the no-nonsense sidekick of a billionaire racecar owner. The film is also a vast improvement on the farcical excesses of 2012’s embarrassing crime caper Gambit, although hardly in the same league as the classic of the genre, Norman Jewison’s The Thomas Crown Affair. And Derren Brown enthusiasts may find it all rather old-hat.

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, Gerald McRaney, B.D. Wong, Robert Taylor.

Dir Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Pro Denise Di Novi, Screenplay Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, Ph Xavier Pérez Grobet, Pro Des Beth Mickle, Ed Jan Kovac, Music Nick Urata, Costumes Dayna Pink.

RatPac-Dune Entertainment/Di Novi Pictures/Kramer & Sigman Films/Overbrook Entertainment/Zaftig Films-Warner Brothers.
104 mins. USA/Argentina. 2015. Rel: 27 Febuary 2015. Cert. 15 .