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.
“When you have their attention, you can take whatever you want.
You have to be safe.”
“Focus” is a romantic crime movie in which the art of pickpocketing, manipulating and swindling is the point of focus (how appropriate). The end result isn’t memorable cinema, but a typical popcorn movie with a scam duo fluttering around each other as lovestruck butterflies, playing a masterful game of seduction. Or is it also a con game? The whole film is a succession of ingenious orchestrated scams and ruses. Unfortunately, the ultimate scam is explained in detail very early in the film, so you can predict which direction its heading. Although, it’s as entertaining as “Ocean’s Eleven“, filled with illusions as in “Now You See Me” and with a romantic storyline squirming itself through it.
It all starts in a restaurant in New York where Jess (Margot Robbie) tries to get rid of an annoying date by using Nicky (Will Smith) as a way out. What she doesn’t realize is that Nicky is an experienced swindler who knows all the tricks of the trade and who recognized the subsequent attempt to defraud him immediately. Jess manages to become an apprentice of Nicky. Afterwards, they end up in New Orleans, the place to be at that time to steal as much generously stuffed wallets and other trinkets. Only Jess realizes too late that the personal world of Nicky is all about telling lies and cheating. And also that there’s no place for romance in this life full of trickery. And certainly not, as his father taught him, with someone from the same milieu.
And Liyuan was also the key figure in the most (in my opinion) fascinating scene of this film. The Asian gambler who’ll bet on anything. The crazier, the better apparently. This crucial scene shows what Nicky is capable of. How he manipulates his victims and indoctrinates them in a psychological way. As he recites somewhere in the movie : “You have to get inside the head of your victim.“. But at the same time this also shows the weaker portion of the film. At a certain moment this film becomes highly confusing and it’s getting more difficult to discern the difference between truth and deception. The first part is better than expected and sometimes brilliantly portrayed. For example the part where Nicky and his gang hit the streets of New Orleans and demonstrate their palette of pickpockets techniques. The second part looks nice when it’s about scenery (which is really beautiful) but lacks passion. Hopefully there aren’t any individuals who are going to bring, what is shown here, into practice on a large scale !