Will Smith re-vamped

“Focus,” a caper comedy/ thriller written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, is a film that really plays to the strengths of its star, Will Smith.

After some recent poor career choices, Smith takes center stage in “Focus” as Nicky, a master con artist with many tricks up his sleeve, all that require a lot of focus and incomparable skill.

This is the kind of Will Smith performance we love to see: charming, charismatic, compelling and a little frivolous, but with some dark undertones.

He seems to want a bigger score with higher stakes each place he goes, whether it’s New York City, New Orleans or Buenos Aries.

Of course, getting into the characters’ mindset is not an easy task in a film about slick con artists, especially when they’re in a story with so many twists and turns that you may have to see the film twice in order to understand some of its revelations.

It’s difficult to know where the lies end and the truth begins, leaving the audience guessing where their words and crafts will get them next.

Thanks to a clever screenplay, “Focus” does a consistently good job at conning the audience. I must admit I didn’t see many of its twists coming.

I was on the edge of my seat, awaiting the next reveal and what it was going to lead to.

Granted, the third-act twist, as unpredictable as I thought it was, may be too much for someone who’s willing to sit down and think about it, in that it may be somewhat irrational, but I don’t think it damages the film.

Even better is its depiction of how the characters manage to pull off their schemes—one of the best sequences is when a large number of pickpockets pull off a difficult routine in a busy New Orleans street. It’s an extremely well-choreographed shot.

The first half is better than the second, as we get into the world of these scheming individuals, particularly Nicky, who shows his new apprentice, Jess (Margot Robbie), what more to do with her abilities, while he’s also falling for her (or is he?).

It’s fascinating to watch acts of thievery committed in such a sneaky and fast-paced manner, while also showing that it is extremely hard work.

It’s also great to see a battle of wits and chance coming about, particularly in a fabulous sequence in which stakes are constantly raised at a football game where Nicky encounters a sneaky gambler. That may be the film’s most riveting scene, and its payoff is nothing short of brilliant.

The second half may not be as intriguing as the first, but it allows for more situations for Nicky to get in and out of.

“Focus” is playing at Cinemark Theater in Conway. It is rated R for language, brief violence and nudity, as well as sexual situations.

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