FOCUS (USA/15A/104mins) Directed by Glenn Ficarra, John Requa. Starring Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro, ED Wong, Gerald McRaney, Laura Flannery, Adrian Martinez. THE PLOT: We’re in the exciting underworld of the professional pickpocket, the smooth veteran Nicky (Smith) offering hot young novice Jess (Robbie) some of the tricks of his trade when they meet up in a Manhattan restaurant. They’re soon in New Orleans, where there are plenty of drunk tourists – and therefore, lots of lovely moolah for Nicky and his band of merry operatives to snatch. Jess proves herself pretty adept at parting fools from their money too, but she’s not quite ready to witness Nicky dig deeper and deeper into debt when he begins wagering with loaded Chinese tycoon Liyuan (Wong, the very welcome comic relief here). Jump to three years later, and Nicky and Jess meet under very different circumstances… THE VERDICT: And so the slow, painful death of Will Smith’s career takes another step towards VOD oblivion. Having recently stated that M. Night Shyamalan’s AFTER EARTH was the ‘most painful failure’ in his career (which is saying something, given Will’s recent run of flops), Smith is doing himself no favours signing up for this second-rate Steven Seagal nonsense. Already receiving a critical kicking in the US, what’s more telling about the likely fate of FOCUS is the complete lack here of star power (sorry, Margot, Rodrigo, Brenna, Griff and BD Wong), enticing hook or anything approaching an original idea.
Smith has truly become the black Tom Cruise, another fallen box-office giant riding on the shoulders of dead franchises, at a time when good old-fashioned star power or Ron’s Hollywood mafia can no longer save you from an increasingly indifferent and suspicious public. This one will sink like a frickin’ stone. RATING: 1/5 Review by Paul Byrne