Will Smith and Margot Robbie in FOCUS

Will Smith and Margot Robbie playing con…people, that’s good right? In Focus it is cool — for the most part — and then, well, the movie ends.

Director duo Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love) also wrote this film which stars Smith as Nicky a cool con man who doesn’t preach the gospel of the big score. His logic is that a lot of small–but safe, relatively speaking–scores can net just as much money as a big and dangerous winner-takes-all scam. This is how he operates, and one of his rules — because all such movies have characters who live by certain rules right? — is that he doesn’t allow himself to care about another person.

It all works really nicely for him until he meets Jess (Robbie), involves her in a whirlwind score fest that nets them a lot of money and then truly blows her mind after one of those winner-takes-all mega scores that looked like it was going to go really really badly for Nicky.

And then he dumps her. Wait, what?

This is a movie ladies and gentlemen and conflict must be generated by any means necessary.

A little ways down the road time-wise, Nicky is in the middle of another big con when he meets Jess yet again, only now she is happily involved with another dude (played by Rodrigo Santoro), so naturally Nicky is distracted. And a distracted con man makes mistakes. Thus setting up a grand finale that just doesn’t deliver the goods. And there is a good reason why: the conclusion is ‘correct’ in terms ofthe logic by which the characters in this world operate. But that conclusion doesn’t provide the type of satisfaction that moviegoers seek, generally speaking.

This is a pickle a lot of storytellers find themselves in, and I guess there must have been some serious moving and shaking going on behind the scenes that allowed for this movie to go out into the cinemas with this ending. Because there is room for a happier, more victorious ending. I just wonder whether the filmmakers felt like they were simply repeating themselves because that happier victorious ending was delivered much earlier on in the movie. Right before Nicky dumped Jess.

Final Analysis: This movie provided me with food for thought on a personal level, and kinda-sorta underscored the benefits of giving the audience what they want. In this case it is clear that the ask would have been a big win for the lead pair. Whether I’ll always be able to figure that big win out in my own writing is a different matter altogether.

My Advice: Smith and Robbie make an attractive pair and that scene at the football game is totally worth experiencing. So check this one out when you have a free afternoon.