I understand the quibbles that some have with Will Smith’s latest, Focus, but I found it to be an incredibly entertaining movie along the lines of Matchstick Men or Now You See Me. It’s a super slick con-man caper, and while at times, it looks like a commercial for a high-end liquor, it duped me. In the best kind of way. I fell into every trap, and was as surprised by the plot turns as some of the characters were. It has some problems — the lies get stacked so deep that you don’t want to even try unpacking them because to do so would shatter the illusion — but it’s fun, and twisty, and ultimately, satisfying for those who allow themselves to get swept up into it.
I don’t want to say too much about the plot for fear of revealing something and taking away your enjoyment, except to note that Will Smith plays a veteran con man who mentors Margot Robbie’s character, and their relationship is complicated. In lieu of a traditional review, because I don’t want to ruin anything, I will offer a brief approximation of my reactions to the film.
Your mileage may vary. Keep in mind that I have a weakness for capers. If you’re the kind of person who bragged to all your friends that you figured out Now You See Me before anyone else, Focus is probably not the movie for you.
10 Minutes In
Will Smith is downplaying his Will Smith-ness and attempting, instead, to play it Clooney cool. It’s muted, but it works. I can’t tell what Margot Robbie’s angle is yet, but I’m both skeptical and intrigued.
25 Minutes In
They are really overplaying their hand here. It’s so obvious where this is going. It’s like they don’t think we’ve ever seen a con-man movie before. Come on! Don’t insult our intelligence.
40 Minutes In
Woah! Wait a second! That’s not where I was expecting it to go at all. Well done! I definitely got snookered by the misdirect. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa led us one way, and then pulled the rug out from underneath us.
60 Minutes In
I have no idea what’s going on now. Who the hell is playing who? Who is the mark? Are they all playing each other?
70 Minutes In
Oh, I get it. I see where they’re going now. It’s a predictable second act, but at least the first act was solid.
80 Minutes In
Nope. That’s not where it went at all. Duped again! I am getting played left and right here.
90 Minutes In
OK, cool. Get out of there now and ride off into the sunset. They didn’t quite stick the landing, but it’s a decent ending. I’ll take it! 6.5 out of 10, would bang.
95 Minutes In
What? It’s not over, and now I am thoroughly confused. Who is telling the truth? What is going on? How are they going to get out of the corner they’ve written themselves into here?
HOLY SHIT. Of course! I’m an idiot! How did I not see that coming? That’s perfect. Goddamn, I had no idea until about 12 second before the reveal.
Well played. I enjoyed the hell out of that.