I’ve only ever seen a handful of Will Smith movies but in each of them, he’s played a cool, easy-going, improvised kind of guy, and so I thought I might like Focus. Indeed, that’s exactly the kind of character he plays here. Con-man Nicky Spurgeon has been in the game a long time, and so when he meets a very beautiful young lady in a swanky restaurant, he’s on to her scam right away and plays it very cool when her partner shows up. He sees potential in Jess (played by Margot Robbie), so he takes her on as an “intern” and teaches her everything she needs to know. They team up with a large group of “artists” in New Orleans for the Super Bowl (reminiscent of The Sting) and over the week net more than $1.2 M. But they’ve become romantically involved and he walks away. Not a man for complications.
Three years later, he’s running a scam in Buenos Aires for Garriga (played by Rodrigo Santoro) a wealthy playboy who owns one of the racing teams gearing up for the Formula 1 and wants an edge he thinks Nicky can give him. When Jess shows up as Garriga’s girlfriend, Nicky is thrown for a loop. The complications send ripples exponentially until the climax, when Garriga realizes he’s been played and threatens to kill them both. The way that ends came as a huge surprise.
Supporting members of the scam team are a grand collection of characters from Farhad, the computer expert (played by Adrian Martinez), to Horst (Brennan Brown), and two of the victims, Liyuan (BD Wong), and McEwan (Robert Taylor) were each brilliant in their own way. Gerald McRaney is fabulous as Garriga’s muscle man but, as in any good con, nothing is as it seems. The plot is full of surprises and the audience is conned over and over because the movie has you focused on the misdirections. Great locations. Lots of laughs. Lots of chemistry between the leads. A fair bit of foul language which seems to be de rigueur these days. * * * *