A series of film reviews and opinion pieces from a film student and all round movie lover! Happy reading!
Directed By: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Produced By: Denise Di Novi
Written By: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Starring: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, B.D. Wong
Running Time: 104 Minutes
Like a passing car on a deserted highway, Focus was a film to emerge from 2015 that showed a lot of promise excitement as it approached its release date.
As the car gets closer, you’re thinking that it will be a sleek, sexy and stylish sports car with a roaring engine and a beautiful finish, but after it comes in to clear view, you realise that it’s a cheap knock-off that is posing as one of the classics from yesteryear. It passes by and you think nothing more of it.
Focus is one of the more forgettable films of 2015, primarily due to its inflated ego and criminal under-performance to match. An attempt to be a modernised version of The Sting, Focus is sharp, suave and somewhat impressive, right up until certain gaping writing flaws serve as the foundation for the story.
Will Smith plays Nicky, a supremely talented con man with a long and successful past. Following a productive career under his wing, Jess (Margot Robbie) becomes detached from Nicky, pursuing her own life of trickery and deception, only to find herself tangled up with him years later.
Questions are asked, few are answered, but when they are, the explanations are ridiculously farfetched to say the least.
What Focus ultimately boils down to is a series of events that lead up to one of the strangest, most upsetting conclusions to any film of the year, however given the slew of individual scenes with similar structures, we should’ve been expecting it.
There is a stylistic sheen to Focus which makes it a visually appealing picture. The sleekness of certain shots, sequences or even lines of dialogue are all good qualities of the film.
There are nighttime sequences that show off some wonderful composited shots though colour, exposure and overall mise en scene, however these don’t justify some gargantuan inconstancies in the plot.
Initially, Focus seems to be a promising film through its look and pacing. There are pleasing montage sequences to catch the essence and feel of the story, whilst the characters seems deep and investible.
Before too long however, the plot becomes convoluted beyond compare; producing cop-out explanation after cop-out explanation to get around really intriguing scenarios.
A scene in particular takes place at a football game and sees B.D Wong’s character Liyuan make back-and-forth bets with Nicky that progressively increase in value to the point of ludicrousness.
Without ruining the scene entirely, the conclusion to this scene is indicative how the writers clutched at the biggest bunch of straws imaginable. Attempting to be intelligent and sophisticated, the scene enthrals the audience and really pulls you in (it’s genuinely one of the most entertaining scenes of the year until a certain point), yet moments later, it metaphorically flips you the bird to finish itself off.
If you missed Focus, don’t feel as if you have to hunt it down in order to restore order to the universe. It’s a film to put on if there is absolutely nothing else to choose from and you’re bedridden with two broken legs. A recommendation would be The Sting from 1973. Instead of Smith and Robbie, you are treated to the iconic chemistry of Robert Redford and Paul Newman, all the while enjoying a solid, rounded story.
Focus showed a lot of clear-cut promise, however it loses….“focus” all too quickly, resulting in confusion and anger from the audience.
The ‘bait and switch’ approach can be an excellent addition to the style of a film, however even though Focus lends itself itself to such an approach, the writing and direction of the narrative abuses it and takes it for granted, giving the audience absolutely nothing to work out for themselves.
We a merely spectators and therefore have no connection to the film in any other aspect which is a big disappointment.