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By Daniel Lammin
14th June 2015

As silly as they are, I do enjoy a good heist film. Whether it’s ‘Oceans Eleven’ or ‘The Italian Job’, there’s something immensely satisfying in watching pretty people in great clothes committing to a terrific steal in an exciting location. It’s this principle that ‘Focus’, the latest film from writing-directing team Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, relies upon for its success, and for the most part, it’s a safe assumption. Whatever failings ‘Focus’ has (and there are surprisingly few), it’s most certainly a bloody good time.

Master thief Nicky (Will Smith) takes amateur Jess (Margot Robbie) under his wing, tutoring her in the art of the perfect con. Nicky is in charge of a massive operation of thieves, lifting watches, wallets and personal belongings from unsuspecting victims in public, all the while laying plans for much bigger cons. As a professional relationship turns to something more intimate, Jess becomes more emotionally attached to Nicky and he to her... or do they? With both being such masters at deception and lying, is one using the other for hidden motives?

‘Focus’ is the kind of twisty-turny narrative that keeps you on your toes, and when the all-important Big Reveal happens (of which there are many littered throughout), you’d better be paying attention. For the most part, Ficarra and Requa have constructed a clean little tale, wisely built primarily around Nicky and Jess’ relationship. Their focus on just these two characters gives the film a sense of clarity, so that we aren’t being forced to juggle too many balls in the air. The only thing that structurally catches the film up is that it’s a long time before any kind of narrative starts, and when it does it lacks the forward propulsion to get the film going. Individual set-pieces hold the tension beautifully, especially a terrific and tense betting game at the football, but they lack strong narrative frame to hold them together.


Thankfully the characters make up for that, especially in the hands of Smith and Robbie. While Smith is mostly what we would expect, all charisma and delicious wit, it’s actually Margot Robbie who steals the film, proving herself a considerable talent. She snaps and spars with everyone on screen with boundless energy, all the more arresting thanks to how beautiful she looks. It’s not often that I think of an actor's looks as being part of their skill set, but Robbie knows how to use her appearance in perfect balance with her great talent, making her an endless surprise. Ficarra and Requa ensure that the look of the film matches the slick aesthetics of its leads, crafting the cinematic equivalent of a sports car. Of course films like ‘Focus’ are total fantasy, but there really is something intoxicating about them. It’s as indulgent as the richest chocolate, and even though it doesn’t add anything to your intelligence, it doesn’t mean it isn’t a damn fine indulgence.

And that’s the best way to approach ‘Focus’ - as an indulgence. That’s certainly what Glenn Ficarra and John Requa seem to be offering it as. Watching Nicky and Jess navigate around the serpentine deceptions is delicious, and their charisma and charm are intoxicating. I really wasn’t expecting to be as taken by ‘Focus’, and even though it lacks a narrative drive and thus feels a little long, I found myself happily settling in for the ride. Just remember to never let your focus slip, lest the con gets you in the end.

‘Focus’ is the kind of twisty-turny narrative that keeps you on your toes, and when the all-important Big Reveal happens, you’d better be paying attention.

Like the film itself, the 1080p 1.85:1 transfer is as slick as a well-tailored suit and as shiny as a new sports car. The cool blue and grey palate comes off a treat in high definition, and the detail throughout looks terrific. Films like ‘Focus’ are made for Blu-ray, especially when the cinematography is as careful and manipulative as it is here. The DTS-HD MA 7.1 track also hums along beautifully, the dialogue balanced with the cool soundtrack and occasionally immersive sound design. For a film that has been as carefully crafted visually and aurally as ‘Focus’, this Blu-ray release is a real treat.

The small collection of features mostly look at the cast and their work in preparation for the film. ‘Masters of Misdirection’ (10:25) goes through the training and philosophy of the perfect con that the cast needed to learn for the film, under the guidance of con artist Apollo Robbins. The film goes to great length to show what an art pickpocketing is, so it’s quite interesting watching how the cast prepared for it. ‘Will Smith: Gentlemen Thief’ (5:25) and ‘Margot Robbie: Stealing Hearts’ (4:08) focus exclusively on the two leads, with both the actors and the directing team on hand to discuss them. There’s also a collection of deleted scenes (8:02) and an alternate opening (2:44).

RELEASE DATE: 17/06/2015
RUN TIME: 01h 45m
CAST: Will Smith
Margot Robbie
Rodrigo Santoro
Gerald McRaney
Robert Taylor
Billy Slaughter
Adrian Martinez
Bd Wong
Brennan Brown
Dotan Bonen
John Requa
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