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 Especially if it has your laptop in it (with several, gloriously written unpublished reviews on it), an iPod classic, which is no longer being manufactured, and your keys – meaning you have to stand around outside in the pouring rain waiting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).

  • guest

    Let me begin by saying I do not think this is the best movie I have ever seen. Not even top 50. I just want to speak on the points you mention in each paragraph. Your second paragraph doesn’t say anything so it won’t be discussed.

    So from your first paragraph the reader can already guess that, as a victim of theft, you won’t be able to truly look objectively at this movie. This is a movie involving conning people, and in all its promotion never pretended to be something else. To say that making a movie about con artists is frivolous is to say every movie in history about cons is. And I think we both know that’s not true. it is a known fact that people will enjoy and pay for movies and tv shows about less than upstanding people.

    You say that it lacks a focal point. I do not think it does. I think the focal point is quite obviously the relationship between Smith and Robbie. This movie at its core is a love story. And it’s not about “Jesus” falling in love with “Mary Magdalene”, it’s about a CONMAN falling for a CONWOMAN. I thought it was interesting how you spoke on the opening music for the movie. The first thing I thought when I heard the first song was, “Why do I feel like I am about to watch a romantic comedy?”. And by the end I realized that’s what it was, with some drama and “clever” heists mixed in.

    This is a movie about professional CON ARTISTS, so if you get tired of “twists and turns” I don’t know what to say. The only dilemma we really have to deal with is whether or not the love between the characters is real. But whatever, if you didn’t enjoy the mini con jobs then that’s up to the viewer. As someone who is not a con artist, I enjoyed it the little tips and tricks thoroughly.

    You say “AN ELDERLY DOCTOR” when describing one of their ‘victims’ and also how this movie doesn’t necessarily compare to the Ocean’s franchise. Well there are varying degrees to stealing. Did Andy Garcia deserve to have a large part of his life’s work taken from him? Sure he was an asshole and we are manipulated into not liking him. But he wasn’t hitting Julia Roberts, or stealing (unless you concerned the gambling industry stealing). Yet Frank Ocean tries to take everything from him just because the guy is dating his girlfriend. Now when they lift a watch from the ELDERLY DOCTOR, are they taking his livelihood? His life’s work? Nope, theyre mostly stealing luxury purchases from people, the doctor included. Sure someone special might have gotten it for them and the item could hae special significance, but I don’t think you can say it is worse than trying to take everything someone has worked for. My point is, you can’t compare Oceans to Focus on a moral scale and weigh one as better than the other.

    (Every ‘good’ film or piece of art doesn’t have a”GOOD” guy/girl. Breaking Bad anyone?)

    This film does an amazing job of reflecting reality. You know it first hand that people will steal from you. And their is no limit to the elaborate ways in which they will do it. So honestly what are you talking about? YES, everyone doesn’t have an attractive woman approach them and ask to pretend to be their bf. BUT IT DOES HAPPEN. The fact that the characters are extremely attractive does not take from the fact that meeting the love of your life can sometimes be crazily random. If she hadn’t tried to steal from him, Will Smith would have had sex with her and then continued with his life. But because she did try, and then she tracked him down, and asked for advice, he fell more and more in love with her.

    Also nice touch appealing to the feminist movement by claiming the female characters are underdeveloped. The newest critic buzzword. The only ‘developed’ characters in this whole movie are Will Smith and Margot Robbie’s characters. EVERYONE ELSE ARE PROPS. Who else is being manipulated or appearing weak except Robbie. Who else really even matter in this story besides the main characters? Jesse or Jess or whatever is only tricked once, when she thinks she has a serious relationship with Nicky. BUT IT TURNS OUT SHE DOES, he does actually care about her! The story he tells about using her in the end is a lie! Everything he says to her after the NO heist is real!

    Anyway, I had fun writing this, I am not a writer or a critic but I watched the movie and you helped me think more deeply about it. So thank you.