‘Focus’ Review Roundup: Will Smith, Margot Robbie Caper Receives Mixed Notices
Focus, starring Will Smith and Margot Robbie, is a high-stakes caper movie written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.
In Focus, Smith plays a veteran conman named Nicky, who takes the young and attractive Jess (Robbie) under his wing as an apprentice, teaching her the tricks of the con trade. When things start to get complicated between the two, they part ways only to meet again three years later when Jess has risen up in the criminal ranks and is now Nicky’s competition.
For the most part, reviews have criticized Focus for being a paint-by-numbers caper film with little more to offer than its predecessors. Despite the film’s formulaic plot and pacing, critics haven’t been able to deny the charisma and chemistry of the film’s leads.
“February is the time for movies that look slick and promising but turn out to have something major wrong with them; otherwise, they’d be opening in May. “Focus” fits right into that pattern, a movie about con artists that’s itself an elaborate con. The movie’s con is that it’s showing us a secret underworld, something real that we’ve never seen or imagined, that it’s revealing how the big boys operate. But it’s not doing any of those things. “Focus” is ridiculous in every detail. It’s a movie with no truth, that teaches nothing and shows nothing, that has only its audacity to recommend it.” – Mike LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
“Slick, slippery and smarter than it looks, this caper from writing-directing duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa gets a substantial push from two stars at their most charming. Focus knows exactly what kind of film it is, but even more importantly, it knows that we know what kind of film it is. And while our attention is elsewhere looking at what we expect it to do, it often does something else entirely. As Nicky explains during a Pickpocketing 101 lesson to Jess on a snowy night in New York, “Get their focus, you can get whatever you want.” Of course, Ficarra and Requa are aided in their objectives by the simple fact that we are also, often, looking at Smith and Robbie.” – James Rocchi, The Wrap
“Gorgeous people in expensive clothing trade snappy banter in luxurious locations. It’s all giddy, fizzy fun—until it isn’t anymore—in “Focus.” But co-stars Will Smith and Margot Robbie remain consistently charismatic, even once the script for this heist caper collapses in a punishing pile of its own twists and double-crosses. […]We know in a movie like this that we in the audience are being played just as much as the poor fools on screen. In theory, that’s part of the fun—trying to stay a step ahead of the action, and often failing. But “Focus” is all surface, all artifice, to the point where we can’t help but expect the duplicity.” – Christy Lemire, RogerEbert.com.
“What keeps the film humming along as smoothly as it does is the chemistry and charisma of its leads. It’s been a while since Smith was given a role as charming and loose as Nicky. Maybe as far back as Men in Black II. And here, as he takes in all of the angles sizing up a potential mark, he radiates the same unflusterable Cary Grant cool that once made him the biggest box office draw on the planet. When he opens his mouth, out pour jazzy arias of Soderberghian wise-guy patter. It’s a gas to see that guy again.” – Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly
Focus, rated R, hits theaters Friday.