Conning ain't easy. It's a hard-learned lesson that movies like Matchstick Men, The Lady Eve, The Sting, and last year's American Hustle have taught audiences; dupe not, lest you also be (potentially) duped. So goes the central contretemps of Focus, the latest film from Crazy, Stupid, Love directing duo Glen Ficarra and John Requa, and the newest addition to that long, illustrious line of productions about trust among swindlers.
It's also the first Will Smith outing in a dog's age that is neither a sequel, nor an over-serious melodrama, nor After Earth (zing!). Refreshing, that, but more so is how much Focus' premiere trailer (posted above) makes use of Smith's gifts as a star: his charisma, his comic timing, the easy chemistry he shares with his fellow actors. Focus seems like a picture that will live or die on how well its cast vibes together though judging by the teaser, Ficarra's and Requa's polished, glossy stylization comes a close second.
In Focus, Smith plays Nicky, a veteran sharpie with a talent for misdirection and newfound mentor to newbie grifter Jess (The Wolf of Wall Street's Margot Robbie). The pair slowly grow romantically entwined- so Nicky does what he thinks is best and calls it off. Flash forward a few years later and Jess suddenly reappears in Nicky's life, on the night he and his crew are orchestrating a dangerous con, and, well, things go completely haywire. So it seems, anyways.
The clip does start off with Nicky and Jess having a gun put in their face, so it stands to reason that their reunion bodes poorly for his big scheme. But Focus, at a glance, looks much more interested in developing its characters than it is in cool chicanery and deception; con artistry may serve as a backdrop to the relationship between its leads, who frankly look terrific together in the footage seen here (which itself looks slickly produced and appropriately ostentatious).
Smith's credentials as a font of magnetism don't need to be checked, and Robbie, a newcomer at the time Martin Scorsese's epic of stock market greed came out (and now quickly building up her resume), has shown that she's more than capable of sharing (or stealing) the spotlight from the likes of Leondardo DiCaprio. Focus might be worth watching just to see the pair riff off one another on the swanky stage that Ficarra and Requa have set for them.
Focus arrives in theaters February 27th, 2015.