Have you ever had your bag stolen? Because I have, and it’s the most irritating thing in the world. Especially if it has your laptop in it (with several, gloriously written unpublished reviews on it), an iPod classic, which is no longer being manufactured, and your keys – meaning you have to stand around outside in the pouring rain waiting for your other half to come home from work. It’s a reprehensible act, and you want nothing more than to confront the thief and and give them what for. In Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s frivolous heist movie Focus, that’s exactly the sort of person we’re supposed to invest in and root for; the people who steal your personal belongings when you’re not looking. Needless to say, this doesn’t make for a very enjoyable cinematic endeavour.
You know when you’re alone in a restaurant, and a beautiful woman spontaneously comes over to your table and asks you to be her boyfriend? No? Well Will Smith’s Nicky certainly does, when the beguiling temptress Jess (Margot Robbie) approaches him as he dines. Though she’s after one thing – his wallet. Problem is, he’s the master of distraction and a renowned pickpocket, who helps coordinate an underground operation of thieves who make a living out of taking other people’s belongings. Nicky knows Jess is talented, so takes her under his wing, unwittingly falling for his apprentice in the process.
As you can tell from the description of the opening scene, Focus is not a picture that reflects reality, and requires a true suspension of disbelief to fully get along with. However even then it’s still something of a struggle. The characters are just so ill-natured that you can’t bring yourself to root for their cause. There’s one scene in a restaurant when they stage a heart attack to divert everybody’s attention, only to then steal a watch from an elderly doctor who is trying to help out. AN ELDERLY DOCTOR. The tone and spirit of the film points towards a piece that makes this vocation seem cool and classy, pushing for the viewer’s investment. We should be supportive of these characters, but we’re lacking a good guy, somebody to cling on to with redeeming features – though sadly we’re left wanting.
The only enjoyable aspects derive from the audience’s own insecurity, we never know who to trust as the characters all double cross one another. They’re never sincere and when they, we still don’t know whether to believe in it. It puts us in the same shoes as those being conned, which is playfully elusive and entertaining. Meanwhile, Robbie is the stand-out performer, with a real earnest nature to her, portraying a genuine side to her demeanour despite being in a film – and playing a character – that thrives in being totally the opposite. In general, the female characters are severely underwritten in this title, and when they do feature they’re generally just a prop in a man’s dastardly scheme; easy to manipulate and emotionally weak.
Sadly, even the music in this tedious picture is terrible, and in the opening sequences, it sounds like the sort of music you hear when on hold trying to book a dentist appointment. Sadly the experience that transpires offers the same amount of enjoyment as the eventual appointment itself, in what truly is one of the most inane, vacuous productions you’ll see this year. When Focus thinks it’s being clever, it’s not. It takes so many laughable twists and turns that even Now You See Me pales in comparison. This really takes the biscuit… (When you’re not looking).