'Focus' seems more like a travelogue than a caper film
Co-directors and co-writers Glenn Ficarra and John Requa mistake glamorousness for inspiration; whenever the story flags, they pile on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous stuff.
Frank Masi/Warner Bros. Pictures/AP
I’m a sucker for movies about con men, which means, I suppose, that I’m a sucker, since most of them are subpar. “Focus,” starring a somnolent Will Smith as a world-class grifter, features beautiful locations and even more beautiful people but seems more like a travelogue than a caper film. Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who co-wrote and codirected, mistake glamorousness for inspiration; whenever the story flags, they pile on the Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous stuff.
Smith’s Nicky hooks up early with novice Jess (Margot Robbie), who, in a sequence in New Orleans’ French Quarter, proves her mettle as a first-class grifter. This is the kind of movie where we’re not supposed to know at any time who is playing whom, but since the characterizations are glossy and paper-thin, it’s difficult to get worked up about who gets fleeced.
Scenery-wise, the best sequences are set in Buenos Aires in the world of Formula 1 auto racing. But the best scene comes earlier on, when Nicky, in a luxury suite at the Superdome, extends a losing streak wager with a billionaire Chinese businessman (a very funny B.D. Wong). Is Nicky being played or is he the player? If you think you already know the answer to that question, you don’t really need to see the movie. Grade: C+ (Rated R for language, some sexual content and brief violence.)