'Focus' Special Screening - Red Carpet Arrivals

Karwai Tang


Will Smith is back, and he wants to remind us that he’s the same old Will. He’s been playful on the night show circuit, performing the “Fresh Prince” theme song and his throwback hit, “Summertime,” and is even poking fun at getting a little older. After a string of sci-fi movies that have fallen flat in previous years, especially 2013’s disappointing father-and-son flick After Earth, Smith aims to reclaim the box office with his latest film, Focus. It’s a welcome hybrid of Hitch and Ocean’s Eleven, with a love story that will revive his heartthrob status, and enough plot twists to keep viewers entertained to the ending credits.

Is Focus worth your dollars? For a movie night, you can’t go wrong. Smith’s character, Nicky, is a notoriously private veteran con man. He quickly meets Jess Barrett, a rookie in the con game, played by Margot Robbie, known for her breakout role in The Wolf of Wall Street. She’s mostly interested in petty pick pocketing, with a particular interest in swiping designer watches. But Nicky quickly schools her to the game with haiku-sized lessons on the thieving game, quite similarly to the dating lessons that helped Kevin James win the girl in Hitch.

The two work the con man circuit, from football games to casinos, and we quickly find out that Nicky can’t bear to lose, thanks to a tough dad who called him Mellow, short for “Marshmallow.” All in all, Focus is a surprisingly fun film that snakes heavy writing for an entertaining thrill ride.

Is Focus enough to convince us that Will Smith’s cinematic charm is back for good? Writer-directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa aimed to make Smith and Robbie’s chemistry a major supporting character in the film, and effectively did just that. Nicky comprises a bit of Smith’s most beloved characters, and the charm that launched his career from his The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air days is finally back on full display. The most intriguing part of the film is that for every formula it does follow, there’s a plot twist that completely throws the audience. Just when you think you’ve cracked the code, the storyline pivots, and is the reason it remains so entertaining throughout.

Focus hits theaters this weekend, and is already predicted to overthrow current dominant 50 Shades of Grey at the box office. Smith makes for a charming con-man, and that’s enough to keep his loyal fans and possibly lure back some old ones. And his film comeback is only the beginning. Smith revealed that he’s recorded new music with Kanye West, and that star-packed backing could really make a dent in today’s current state of hip-hop.

Welcome back, Will.


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