A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Focus is a heist flick about Nicky (Will Smith), a master con artist who meets and falls for the beautiful young Jess (Margot Robbie), who wants him to mentor her in the art of scamming people. With superstar Smith and the gorgeous Robbie as the leads, expect even middle schoolers to show an interest, but the content is more appropriate for older teens. There's plenty of strong language ("f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," "bitch") and raunchy innuendo, as well as several sex scenes, though they're limited to kissing and shots of bare shoulders, backs, and the sides of breasts (no frontal nudity). The con artists drink frequently, and a couple of times the main characters have to deal with private bodyguards who take their guns out, crash into them, and take them hostage. One character is shot.
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What's the story?
In FOCUS, Nicky (Will Smith) is a renowned third-generation con artist who can convince anyone of anything. He has a vetted network of cons working for him, and he can work jobs big or small. One day at a posh hotel restaurant, he meets Jess (Margot Robbie), a young blond who unsuccessfully tries to run a con on him. Instead of getting angry, Nicky gives her some professional advice. Later, during a Super Bowl weekend in New Orleans, Jess tracks Nicky down and begs him to mentor her. He agrees, and he's amazed at her skills: She's a criminal genius. As he integrates her into his weekend of coordinated cons, they become lovers. He tells her his father's rule that "love has no part in the game" and lets her go without a real goodbye. But three years later, they bump into each other again in Buenos Aires, where Nicky's working on a huge con with the billionaire owner of a car racing team, Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro) -- who happens to be Jess' boyfriend.
Is it any good?
Focus isn't going to join Ocean's Eleven in the pantheon of great caper films, but that doesn't mean it's not a lot of fun. That's mostly due to the leads' ridiculous charm and the funny supporting characters who make several scenes appropriately tense but comical. It's easy to forget how good Smith is at comedy, and Robbie's timing is better than you might expect. But it's the scenes with their marks or their colleagues that are the best -- whether it's Nicky's hilarious right-hand man, Farhad (Adrian Martinez), or a rich gambling addict deliciously played by B.D. Wong. When the cons are doing their work, the movie is like a pick pocket's version of the Wolf of Wall Street -- you can't help but laugh as they steal bags, watches, wallets, and identities.
Ironically, the movie's biggest flaw is its own lack of focus, and the various twists and turns start getting a bit old and almost predictable by the climactic ending (if the audience "focuses" enough themselves, they'll figure out a key plot point). As Jess tells Nicky, "you saw what I wanted you to see" -- and in this case, it's a couple of "aha" moments too many. This is a fast-moving, shiny movie where you find out very little beneath the surface about any character or any theme. But, hey, it's still entertaining enough to make it watchable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about movies that humanize criminals. Do movies like these make you root for criminals? Is that OK? What makes a character sympathetic?
Do you think Focus glamorizes the lives of con artists? What does Nicky mean by quoting his father's edict that "love has no place in the game"?
Why is it so common for older men to have relationships with much younger women in movies? Smith and Robbie are 22 years apart. Conversely, why do so few movies show relationships between much older women and younger men?
- In theaters: February 27, 2015
- On DVD or streaming: June 2, 2015
- Cast: Will Smith, Margot Robbie, Rodrigo Santoro
- Directors: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language, some sexual content and brief violence
- Last updated: October 13, 2019
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