Movie Review: Will Smith returns to the big screen this year in “Focus” as a Clever Con-Artist

Nicky Spurgeon is an extremely accomplished con man who takes an amateur con artist, Jess, under his wing. Nicky and Jess become romantically involved, and with Nicky’s profession of being a liar and a cheater for a living, he realizes that deception and love are things that don’t go together. They split, only to see each other three years later… and things get messy.

Nicky knows his stuff. It’s not the sort of stuff you’d teach your kids or talk about in mixed company. But it’s a certain well-practiced knowledge that only comes after a great deal of hard work and only, really, to a choice few.

It’s like that light-footed grace some athletes have on the sports field. Or the fleetness of mind that only a very few deep thinkers can muster. In Nicky’s case, though, his skill set is something altogether different. He’s a seasoned con man who can easily convince you of pretty much anything he wants you to believe.

He can put you at ease while he steals away your fortune and leaves you thinking it was all for the best. He can kiss your wife, pick your pocket and kick your dog while letting you believe you won the lottery that day. And no matter how things might go sideways, Nicky plays out his part with such a cold, calculated efficiency that he always lands on his feet with his pockets full.

He’s been able to do all that by following one simple rule: “There’s no room for heart in this game.” You can’t care about the mark. You can’t care about who gets hurt. You can’t even care about your partners in the con.

Now there’s a problem for Nicky, though. He’s met someone. Someone special he can’t get out of his head. Her name is Jess, and she’s hit him with an emotional broadside that’s left him reeling. And caring. She’s a thief too. And she’s getting pretty good at it under Nicky’s tutelage. In fact, they fit together in every way better than any two people he’s ever known.

But that shouldn’t matter. It can’t matter. He needs to walk away. He can’t keep caring.

If you let heart get between you and a job, you can lose your focus. If Nicky knows nothing else, he knows that this business is all about focus. And he’s losing it.

This film is “focused” on people who steal for a living. So there’s not a lot to praise in their actions except to say that among thieves there is a certain standard of honor upheld here. And the film does suggest that love can have a softening, positive effect even on the most heartless. Thus, Nicky warns Jess to get out of crime before it hurts her.

Early on, Nicky tells the eager-to-learn Jess that if you redirect a mark’s focus, you can pretty much do whatever you want. Then he proceeds to demonstrate his point while he banters, redirecting her focus repeatedly so he can lightly lift her possessions.

By film’s end we come to see that the movie itself has been playing that same sleight of hand game on us- redirecting our gaze with likable characters, an easy pace and pleasant settings, then surprising us several times with the story-con it has concocted. Overall, it was a pretty good movie and worth a watch.

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