Monday, March 9, 2015

The Art of the Steal

Slumping A-lister Will Smith attempts to get his mojos back in the uneven but infectious heist drama ‘Focus,’ in which he plays Nicky, a jaded big-time con-man and hustler who took a protégé under his wing in the guise of an attractive young blonde, Jess (Margot Robbie).  The two struck up an on-again-off-again relationship that’s playful despite its unlikelihood, thanks to the magnetism and chemistry between Smith and Robbie.  Unfortunately, far less believable are the various capers and cons we’re supposed to believe they and their team of sophisticated thieves are capable of pulling off.
That isn’t to say ‘Focus’ isn’t entertaining.  The misdirections, sleight-of-hand and deception methods employed by the movie’s various con-artists to put “other people’s money into their own pockets,” as Matthew McConaughey humorously put it in ‘The Wolf of Wall Street’ (which Robbie also starred in), are often funny and enlightening.  We’ve all heard the cliché that “God is in the details,” but so are con-artists (though gods they’re obviously not) because their elaborate set-up and planning to pull off the perfect con are impressive even as they defy belief in that all the pieces have to fall into place at the right time.

Utterly unbelievable, light-hearted and filled with numerous twists and turns, ‘Focus’ is best enjoyed with an open mind.  Whether or not you can suspend your disbelief that B.D. Wong’s compulsive Chinese billionaire gambler can be so manipulated at the Super Bowl by Smith in their game of chicken and one-upmanship, or the scene near the end when Gerald McRaney pulled off the perfect “gotcha!” head-trip moment, you’ll walk out of the theatre shaking your head that a movie so incredible can be so entertaining.

Grade: B
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