'Focus': What the Critics Are Saying

Will Smith stars as a seasoned con man opposite Margot Robbie in the heist flick, directed and written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.

Focus stars Will Smith as Nicky, a master con man who falls in love with his apprentice, Jess (Margot Robbie), while teaching her the tricks of his trade. Both put their skills (and romance) to the test when they aim to swindle the same target.

Directed and written by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love), the romantic caper is expected to debut in the $20 million-to-$22 million range and claim the top spot at the domestic box office, which is currently held by Sam Taylor-Johnson's Fifty Shades of Grey.

See what top critics are saying about Focus:

The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy writes: "Unfortunately, since the major players' salient character traits are insincerity, opaqueness and untruthfulness, it's hard to invest much interest in any of them. The film is all but a feature-length commercial for high living in nothing but the most luxurious hotels, the best restaurants and the most expensive clothes, and yet it's not exactly a goof or cartoon of glamorous people committing crimes against those who can live with it, a la the Ocean's films, nor a sophisticated battle of equals, as in Lubitsch's immortal Trouble in Paradise."

Additionally, the film "occupies an uncertain middle ground between a lark and a caper with serious underpinnings. The writers trot out sordid backstory about Nicky's father and grandfather that's supposed to explain his go-his-own-way behavior, but the baggage seems to oppress Smith as well, to keep him from being as funny and fun to be around as before; here, the actor feels older, less spirited. This also diminishes any desire one might have for Jess to end up with Nicky, no matter what the script may intend. Nicky might be the zen master of con artists and believably becomes an awe-inspiring combination teacher-lover for Jess. But a good prospect for a long-term mate? One would bet against it."

The New York Observer's Rex Reed calls it "beautifully photographed and entertaining, with charming performances by Will Smith and newcomer Margot Robbie that tease and tantalize. You won’t be bored. ... The film is complex, with more curves than a carnival midway ride, but every character is written with a twist that pays off by the writing and directing team Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who made another underrated romantic comedy, Crazy, Stupid, Love, that deserves to be seen again. The wonderful cinematography by Xavier Grobet is so consistently good that you never want to look away, and it feels terrific to hear a score full of Latin jazz instead of pedestrian rock songs like the horrors on display at last week’s mind-numbing Oscar show. Gerald McRaney, BD Wong and dashing Rodrigo Santoro from the 300 films make riveting tertiary contributions."

The Guardian's Jordan Hoffman says the film "spends much of its running time convincing you it is the best entry into the genre in years. Alas, this is merely a setup, as the film’s second half eventually reveals that it’s all been a facade. Once the scaffolding crumbles, we’re left on a limping getaway." Still, "even in this second half, which has considerably less steam than the first, Focus must be applauded for sticking to its mission. There’s not a wisp of moralising within 50 feet of this film. Theft on a large and small scale is considered a noble art. There’s also a sense of sexual candour wafting throughout."

New York Daily News' Joe Neumaier says that Robbie is the "one to watch," while Smith "looks tired, bored and, even worse, uninspired. He dials down his famous charm so much in this lame caper, the biggest scam perpetrated is the one that makes audiences think they'll have a good time. ... What we want from Smith — aside from no more movies like After Earth — is to feel like he’s invested. He’s great fighting aliens and robots, as a real-life father dealing with homelessness and even as a disagreeable superhero in the underrated Hancock. But here, Smith is detached. When he’s swirling around and flirting with Robbie, his lethargy is embarrassing compared to her spark and enthusiasm."

The Chicago Tribune's Michael Phillips notes that "the action is barely trackable, and the editing, while functionally flashy, is no help. ... Some will take Focus in the intended spirit, that of a casual, eye-candy throwback to older Hollywood. Many found the same creative team's Crazy, Stupid, Love a disarming romantic comedy (me, less so), and clearly the team has a gift for zigzag plotting. But the setup of Focus feels hasty and insufficient, and quite apart from their respective levels of talent, Smith and Robbie are required mainly to swan around in what the child-development experts call 'parallel play.' Even in a lark about con artists working through their trust issues, we need more."

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