Out of Focus

The title spills the theme and instructions: Focus. Swindles and scams are inbound, leading a delicate balance of romance, petty crime, and multi-million dollar stakes. Will Smith’s Nicky is a high-grade, well-trained player in the center of a sizzling romance with Margot Robbie’s rookie Jess as they steal their way to a fortune.

Yet to focus will only lead to disappointment. Focus bends and swerves. It jumps three years ahead and jerks the camera away senselessly to falsely indicate something meaningful on top of the rather procedural crime caper. There’s nothing to see. Focus is only the romance pieced together with Smith and Robbie spending their time inches apart. It’s hard to notice anything else.

Certainly, the film is an intriguing character study. Nicky’s sharp dialog and smoothness under pressure are at Will Smith’s core. As an actor, Smith remains utterly affable. And paired with Jess, the decorated blonde who is able to overcome her outward appearance to become someone interesting – this character coupling is Focus’ heart.

They do things, naughty things and playful things. Steal watches, snatch wallets, have sex. It’s almost cyclical until Focus flash forwards for the actual extent of its story. The first 30-minutes are purely the execution of an origin, like super anti-heroes who steal Macs. Then this film turns into a chase at walking speed, Nicky spying on Jess after a split with the framework of a grander sports caper lingering behind them. Something F1 racing and fuel technology; the circumstances are negligible. Focus barely seems to care, nor should it. This is a story about money and love. All that matters is their end game, not the swindle.

When soft reveals are made, the reactions are not of shock so much as they are dismay.

Focus is a flashy piece of cinema, exotic in a small way, full of rich, smart people doing dumb things, yet with the intellect to work around the potential hiccups. They have plans. They’re experienced. Jess is the introduction to the world, a sponge for the audience to understand the con before the con begins. There is hope such a con spirals into something out of control for sake of momentum, when in fact Focus is unusually calming throughout.

That’s just it: There is no grandiose twist, no shift, no play… no logic, really. Focus quietly slides characters into its game without sense. When soft reveals are made, the reactions are not of shock so much as they are of disappointment and dismay. Why did this person act that way earlier? How did that one close his deals so neatly? The con is more on those who paid for admittance expecting to be wowed.

Any reason to buy in is to see Smith (still affluent in charm) coalesce with Robbie who together find the often paraphrased critical term “chemistry.” Together, they work. They make sense, and even if the story peters out when the air is let loose, Focus still has those two leads at its center. [xrr rating=3/5 label=Movie]

Buddies, pals, friends @ 10:04

Flushed with color, Focus proves visually alluring with plenty of oomph in its palette. Color grading only raises, never lowers saturation. Even night scenes are capable of avoiding the pits of orange and teal even if they may graze the off-set hues. Much of the feature is a dazzler though, with substantial flesh tones and raised primaries. Reds, blues, yellows; they all prove beautiful.

If it’s flaws you happen to be after, there are few to chase. Digital cinematography often leads to noise, although given the consistency and placement, much of this feels intentional for the sake of texture. For many, it could pass as a mild film grain. Warner’s encode is appreciable too. Compression handles the situation well, leaving minimal impediment to the imagery.

Superlative definition is rarely out of sync. A few tricks of the cinematography may cause a drop in sharpness, but again as with the noise, by design. In close, source material picks up on facial definition in full. From afar, whether it may be a city or stadium crowd, fine details continue to roll in. Crowded streets in New Orleans spill over with things to see, from restaurant signs to legible shirts.

With the assist are black levels and contrast, always perky in their own way. Dazzling exterior scenes take full advantage of the sunlight. Come darkness, depth continues. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Video]

A number of scenarios give Focus life on the audio side, most spectacularly during trial runs for a race. Cars loudly whip through the full expanse of a 7.1 soundfield between bits of well balanced conversation. If the two additional surrounds were not evident prior, here they become essential to the mix.

Stadiums and clubs host a number of situations. They’re loud and booming. Music dips low and aggressively to add some oomph. A horse race lands each step of the animals into the subwoofer too. Ambiance is a bit light away from these situations – say city streets – but mostly, Focus is stern about its audio. [xrr rating=4/5 label=Audio]

Masters of Misdirection fires the opening shot to the bonuses, detailing the con-sultant the studio brought on board to help make the pickpocketing authentic. At 10-minutes, the information revealed is interesting. Two character-specific featurettes follow, one for Will Smith, the other for Margot Robbie. They’re relatively bland, and Robbie’s repeats much of the pickpocket material. Deleted scenes include an extension of the ending while an alternate opening is separated from the pack. [xrr rating=2/5 label=Extras]

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.

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