Dissecting Focus

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Lauren:  There may be a couple things here and there that didn’t work in Focus, but if so I didn’t notice; I was too busy focusing on everything that worked so well, playing right into the hands of the director/writer tag team of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.  Also, my wallet is now missing, but I’m not sure if that’s connected or not.

In Focus (surprisingly not produced by Focus Features, just FYI), Will Smith plays a born and raised con man who takes an apprentice under his wing when he realizes the potential for greatness in a blossoming sticky fingered woman.  Because this woman is Margot Robbie, Will Smith’s character cannot help but fall for her, complicating the rest of his life.  A complication I’m sure most heterosexual men wouldn’t mind dealing with, but a complication none-the-less.

Zac: Or does he fall in love with her? Dun, dun, dun.

Lauren: Dun, dun, dun!

Zac: I too enjoyed Focus, and while it wasn’t as interested in breaking the genre’s formula as much as I would have liked, it nails the genre’s tropes none-the-less. It also has two great performances from its leads, Robbie and Smith, who also have a ton of chemistry that can be felt coming through the screen. These are beautiful people looking very beautiful, but the romance is strong because it is being driven by two great performances, not because of their physicality. The way they play with relationships is some of the more surprising stuff in the film, with a few of the best reveals being built around our perceived ideas of their relationships.

Lauren:  Seriously, I somehow manage to keep forgetting just how awesome Smith is as an actor each and every time I go any duration of time without watching one of his movies (doesn’t help that the last movie of his I watched was After Earth).  He’s just the greatest, with one of the most emotive faces that can pull off pretty much anything; comedy, disgust, major tear drainage… you name it.  Even without his resume, Robbie is just as great, and I am now as excited as ever to see these two in Suicide Squad.  I love Harley Quinn, and I’m not worried about her performance at all, which is saying something considering how I’ve been reacting to superhero casting of late.  Maybe I should include myself with those heterosexual men I mentioned above…

Zac:  That said, I think the third act of the film is certainly the film’s weakest stretch, even if it never stops being entertaining. This is where the film is most conventional, less snappy and productive, and I for one was not fooled by where the final confrontation goes. Granted, the last beat of the film was a bit of a surprise.  A con movie usually lives and dies by how well the audience gets conned in the process, and even though I saw the ending coming from its initial set up, Focus caught me by surprise and delightfully a number of times throughout.

Lauren: Agreed completely, except for your negativity towards the third act.  I pretty much enjoyed the whole film and didn’t feel like it took a dip, even if I did see most (but not all) of the twists coming.  Focus primes you to question everything shown on screen, so the fact that it is still capable of surprising is an accomplishment worth noting.  But I have to ask, how could someone not feel a purse being pulled from their shoulder considering how much ladies tend to pack in them these days!?  Plus with the game of Operation the thief needs to play to not hit your arm…  I just don’t see it.  But they had a consultant well versed in the art of looting people of their possessions noted in the credits so I’ll assume this specialist knows what he/she is talking about.

Zac: I can roll with all of the thieving; I’m sure thieves do crazy shit we don’t know about.

Honestly, I think the film is worth the price of admission for the football scene alone. Talk about hook, line and sinker. Plus, the complete over the topness of it all totally pays off once we figure out what the hell is going on. As soon as I caught a glimpse of number 55 on those sidelines, I was busting out laughing with exhilaration. The film got me, good, and it was one of the best payoffs I have seen to a con scene like that in some time.

Also, this is probably a good time to give a shout out to Adrian Martinez, who is just as fantastic as the two leads in the film. Martinez has been good in a couple bit parts before, and the back of your head will be wondering where you know him from (“DOUBLE CHECK!”), but he takes full advantage of the screen time he gets here. The supporting cast in general is all pretty great, I can add another Rodrigo Santoro performance to my odd enjoyment of him, but B.D. Wong steals that aforementioned gambling scene. Look forward to him as the only returning cast member in Jurassic World!

Lauren: As much as Wong’s enthusiasm was contagious, I don’t know if I would say he stole the scene considering the performances put into it by everyone, but he definitely helped push it to what it was, completely selling the overall narrative of both what we know and don’t in that moment. Speaking of that scene, is there a special entryway for people bringing in giant bags full of money? Because I can imagine the scene that would play out if one of the bag checkers out front of the stadium took a look into that pot of gold when they’re just expecting a wallet, sunglasses, Tylenol… Also, is having $80,000 in your carry on bag at the airport suspicious? How do you smoothly unclasp a watch from someone’s wrist? Where is the closest black market in the STL area? I’m asking for a friend.

As for scenes worth the price of admission, I’m throwing the climax on that pile. Said it before: Will Smith knows how to act. Even his thinking face is epic! So there, that’s two scenes for the price of one!

***Warning! We avoided spoilers until now, so if you don’t want to know them skip Zac’s next paragraph***

Zac: I mean, I just knew the gunshot thing was coming back as soon as Smith talks about it in the second scene. But yeah, that shot of him figuring a way out of it was good. As was the reveal Robbie was just “race skanking” and playing small time still.

***Safe to everyone to start reading again***

Go see Focus, people; Smith shows off that movie star skill, and Robbie takes that mantel as well. Focus is a fun time in a genre we don’t get enough films from.