Thursday, May 21, 2015

‘Focus’ Strong Leads Elevate an Otherwise Middling Movie

I’m someone who greatly enjoyed the Ocean trilogy, has Leverage as a favorite TV series, and considers 2013’s Now You See Me as awesome while critics hated it.  I have an affinity for twist-filled heist/con comedies.  So there’s no wonder that, despite of Focus’ lack of substance, I was still very much entertained by the movie.

The plot of Focus centers on a veteran grifter named Nicky (played by Will Smith) who takes an alluring amateur named Jess (played by Margot Robbie) under his wing.  Nicky serves as a mentor to Jess, and includes her in his crew.  Eventually, the two develop a romantic relationship.  But when Nicky realizes that they are getting too close – something he can’t afford in his trade – he broke off with her.  Three years later, Nicky is in Buenos Aires working on a high-stakes job.  But things get complicated when an unexpected reunion with Jess occurs in the midst of it.

The highest points of this movie are the performances of Will Smith and Margot Robbie.  Will Smith used to be my most favorite actor – I would watch every movie he was starring in, and immediately like it.   But After Earth was a big turn-off for me.  He wasn’t necessarily bad in it, but he was a prime reason why such atrocity was brought into production.  I kind of forgot everything I liked about him.  In Focus, I get to be reacquainted with Will Smith’s charisma and strong screen presence once again.  If anything else, Focus reminded me why I liked Will Smith and made me look forward to his future projects.

Before Focus, I only knew Margot Robbie as that girl from Wolf of Wall Street and the actress that is going to play Harley Quinn in next year’s Suicide Squad movie.  Aside from these, she was an unknown to me.  But I really saw in Focus that she has the makings of a legitimate star.  Her performance was almost as compelling as Smith’s.  This young lady is to watch out for in the next few years.  Moreover, I really like her look in the Suicide Squad teasers – the rest of the characters are just “meh.”  In fact, Margot Robbie and Will Smith (and to see Jay Leno’s take on the Joker) are the main reasons I have a tinge of excitement for that movie.

Aside from the magnetic performances from its leads, I also liked the fun plot twists and some genuinely funny moments that are scattered all throughout the film.  And thanks to these things, this movie is saved from being fully mediocre.  

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