Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Adrian Martinez, Gerald McRaney
Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
THE Censors have had their way with Will Smith’s latest, including delaying its release. The film has also been shorn of several sex scenes and abuses, shortening it from its already prim 105 minutes. Which is another way of saying that Focus could have been longer.
It’s hard to say who has gained in the process, Focus or the Censors. Given the thin plot by which hangs this slick con caper — barely scraping through before the holes start showing — any longer would probably not have been a good idea.
Directors Ficarra and Requa (Stupid, Crazy, Love) are undecided about how to run with Focus, which eventually starts and ends as a tame love story despite all the heaving and pushing. The cons are no elaborate, impressive plots, but more sleights of hand robbing people of expensive trinkets. One scene involving a Chinese gambler is the film’s one real caper but you might find yourself ahead of the director at almost every step.
What Focus is more intent upon is laying out the good life, from the cities, to the superbowl games, to the race courses and the race tracks, around two people who wear it all very well. Smith’s Nicky and Robbie’s Jess could fit right in among Ocean’s Eleven, if Ocean’s 11 talked lesser and dropped their equally expensive clothes more often. Or, if Steven Soderbergh ever let pass the description of flirtation as ranging between “thinly veiled allure” and “an earth-shattering hump in the works”.
The title itself derives from Nicky’s advice to Jess soon after they meet. He comes from a family of con artists and she was a “dyslexic foster child” who has just begun picking tricks of the trade. The idea, says Nicky, is to pull off cons by “taking the vic’s (victim’s) focus”.
The film itself barely succeeds in that. Including in trying to pass off an actor of Dominican-Nicaraguan descent as a 400-pound Persian, Farhad. Given that Farhad’s scenes appear to have invited the maximum frowns from the Censors, just as well.