‘Focus’ Review: A Gift for Grift

February 26, 2015 7:39 PM

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‘Focus’ Review: A Gift for Grift

First the welcome news about “Focus,” a glossy caper with exotic locations in which a consummate con artist falls for a gorgeous entry-level grifter. Will Smith is back in this world once again, having plumbed the depths of solemnity, if not profundity, in “After Earth.” He’s quick and suave as Nicky Spurgeon, the mastermind of a pickpocketing crew that fans out, as if for a present-day Fagin, through city streets crammed with easy marks. There’s other good news in the vivid star presence of Margot Robbie, who plays the apprentice, Jess Barrett. Before Jess reveals the full extent of her gift for grifting, she serves a brief internship in Nicky’s operation. Ms. Robbie, on the other hand, aces her role from the start; she’s got an unerring gift for romantic comedy. Still, the film itself comes to feel like a con, thanks to a script that’s too clever by two-thirds, and butterfingered in the ways of portraying love.

“Focus” was written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa. Four years ago they directed “Crazy, Stupid, Love” from a script by Dan Fogelman. That film was full of implausible twists and turns, yet funny and affecting in making a case for the old-fashioned notion of soul mates. This one gives ...

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