Monday, April 6, 2015

Focus (Brockway)

Tropic Sprockets by Ian Brockway


"Focus" by the duo of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love) is a breezy idyll with lots of locations in the manner of a double cross/con story, but it goes by too lightly. As the scenery  passes, much of the interest dissipates seeming like a crime drama as watched through a Neiman Marcus store window.

In fairness, though, Will Smith is shifty enough with a trademarked cool confidence to make it entertaining as a Spring diversion. The actor stars as Nicky, a seasoned criminal who runs wholesale scams on everything from jewelry theft to I.D. fraud. During a hotel stay, he gets taken by the fetching Jess (Margot Robbie) only to give her failing grades in revealing that he was only testing her skill.

The film goes back and forth with the audience wondering whether Jess wants to be a shady character or not, but the tension doesn't hold for very long. Nick develops an all consuming interest for the femme fatale Jess (or does he?) and the two spar back and forth.

Nick commits scam after scam in rapid fire succession and Nick notices that Jess is a quick study. They pool their talents and set their sights on the Superbowl, aiming at the egocentric Liyuan (B.D. Wong).

The sleight of hand intrigue is reminiscent of the "Ocean's Eleven " films, all is bright effervescent and Pop. Margot Robbie is pleasing to the eye with some allure as she had in Scorsese's "The Wolf of Wall Street," though the script doesn't allow for much variety in her behavior.

The main draw here is Nick's chimerical quality as portrayed by Smith, at once concerned, fatherly, irresponsible, aloof, wise  and juvenile and all combinations in between.

Some enigmatic push and pull does develop between Jess and Nick, and this proves the main spark of the film. At midpoint however, any romantic pathos is sugared down by the hopeful execution of racing schemes involving a rivalry between drivers Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro ) and McEwan (Robert Taylor)

The narrative ultimately turns formulaic and whatever mystery the film does have gradually fades to a tongue in cheek tone. The aspect of Nick's father (Gerald Mcraney) while compelling, ultimately lies half formed.

The cinematography is exciting and crisp showing many far flung locations in the manner of a Ludlum story, but some bloody doings are derivative of other films and offer little surprise.

"Focus" is a Saturday afternoon aperitif, rather than a full escape, although it benefits well from Will Smith's slippery and soave smirks.

As long as this is what you want, you won't feel taken.

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