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It’s been a while since movie-goers have been treated to a worthy con artist type movie. The last decent major release was probably Now You See Me almost two years ago. That’s also how long it’s been since Will Smith starred (actually co-starred alongside his son, Jaden Smith) in the hugely disappointing sci-fi flick, After Earth. Since then Will Smith has kept a low profile, only appearing in a couple of cameos. He has shaken off the cobwebs to star in a new crime drama called Focus, very appropriately named I might add.

Nicky (Will Smith) is a con artist and he is very good at his trade. He’s so good in fact that he is the head of a team of similarly gifted people. They move from place to place making a quick buck or million and then move onto somewhere new. While not being the most admirable of careers, it’s second nature to Nicky since “the gift” has been passed down to him from his father who learned from his father before him. Nicky meets Jess (Margot Robbie) for the first time and ultimately ends up taking her under his wing as a new protégé. It doesn’t take long for him to realize that she has talent, but more importantly he finds himself with more than a professional interest in the beautiful blonde. The problem with those who live and breathe deception on a daily basis is that it’s next to impossible to know which way is up by the time the dust settles.

When dealing with plots involving cons, the line to toe is very narrow. All of the main characters involved in Focus seem to provide value in one aspect or another. Some levels of importance are not revealed until well into the movie. Everything seems to have a place and purpose. Even though the levels of complexity of these cons appear to escalate throughout the movie, the accompanying “Cons 101” voice-overs and slow motion flashbacks give great assistance to those audience members having a tough time finding solid footing on which to stand.

Focus relies heavily on dazzling audiences with misdirection, mischief and mayhem; all of which are done quite effectively in this particular case. Will Smith has once again found his stride, seemingly distancing himself from his previous subpar feature performance. Margot Robbie shines as the confident and somewhat vulnerable companion, proving that she is more than just eye candy. And as a bit of a head-scratcher I find myself wondering why writer/director Glenn Ficarra hasn’t helmed a project since Crazy, Stupid, Love. He clearly has talent which should warrant additional opportunities. Focus is engaging as well as entertaining which should translate to positive reactions in theaters.

Focus is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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