There is something inherently disagreeable about a film that extols the dubious life of two con-persons as exemplary.
Will Smith and Margot Robbie are just two charlatans pretending that their underhand antics make a difference to the way we perceive materialism and covetousness in the present day context.
"Focus" features the charismatic Smith swaggering down the crooked and narrow path with Ms Robbie who true to her name, pilfers credit cards and wallets with the celerity of a violin player negotiating those strings to produce a sublime sound.
The music produced by the noisy turpitude of the chic twosome is a one-note jingle hard selling potato wafers to a town of indolent slobs. The film assumes a sense of intellectual superiority over the truly vapid actions of its two main characters. It's like trying to play a soprano at a noisy club of revellers who aren't really listening.
The drinks are on the house. But the food is heavily billed. The only reason audiences would want to watch this film is to see the chemistry between the lead pair.
Will Smith and his cute Australian co-star don't disappoint. Whenever they converse, their sub-text suggests sex. Sadly there is very little of it on screen. Sex, we mean. And don't blame our much vilified censor board. Whenever the pair falls to the horizontal position the co-directors seem to be in a hurry to push them on to the next elaborate con job.
One would have liked to see the warmth between the charismatic pair onscreen rather than just hearing about it. Given the paucity of truly revealing moments between Smith and Robbie their teary-eyed parting scene mid-way through the brusque storytelling seems like a bit of con job as well.
But nothing to equal the scam pulled on the unsuspecting audience who are made to sit through one picturesque location after another, looking for a tonal compatibility between the characters and their behaviour. In excruciating detail the script chronicles their exploits, none of them ingenious or even interesting.
This is the kind of film that references its own cleverness to the point that the audience is taken in as outsiders in an intricate game whose rules are known only to the characters playing the game.
They can keep the con game to themselves, for all I care. "Focus" is a dreadful waste of time and talent. Smith's charisma can only take the proceedings this far and no further.
How far can you stretch a story of a teacher and his sexy pupil mastering the art of hoodwinking people? After a point it just seems pointless.
Story first published: Saturday, March 14, 2015, 12:48 [IST]