Movies about con men can be difficult to write about.
You don’t want to give away too much of the plot, as that could derail the fun for people who haven’t seen it. But sometimes you really want to talk about the story, and what may or may not be flaws in its structure.
I’m pretty sure there’s a scene in “Focus” that is incompatible with the plot twist at the end. But I’m not sure and I’d have to see it again to confirm my suspicions and I don’t have the time or desire for that. I mean, it’s a fairly entertaining film, but it’s not “The Sting.”
Will Smith stars as Nicky Spurgeon, a professional con man from a family of con artists. One night he has a run in with an amateur whom he decides to take under his wing. Jess (Margot Robbie) has the raw talent but needs to learn to focus. The one thing that can cause Nicky to lose focus is gambling.
The two are reunited at the Super Bowl, where Nicky introduces Jess to his circle of pickpockets and petty thieves. After a very successful weekend and a bizarre gambling incident, Nicky abruptly breaks off with Jess and sends her away.
Three years later, Nicky is working a job in Buenos Aires and his mark is a wealthy race car owner. When Nicky turns out to be the billionaire’s girlfriend, things get complicated.
Written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, “Focus” has some elements in its favor, the major one being Will Smith. He’s as charming and captivating here as he usually is on screen. Margot Robbie makes for a decent partner in crime.
It’s a stylish film — the locations are glamorous, the clothing is sharp. The gambling scene at the Super Bowl is tense and compelling, if more than slightly absurd.
But a movie about a scam artist lives or dies on whether or not the audience can follow, and believe, all the twists and turns that take place. And I’m not sure I buy one of the key twists.