“Focus” is the kind of movie that the less you think about it, the more enjoyable it is.
The story of con men and women is a fun bit of escapism that doesn’t overstay its welcome, a tightly compacted little yarn from directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa.
Will Smith returns a bit to form as Nicky, a career con man who crosses paths with Jess (Margot Robbie) and decides to take her under his wing.
The partnership ends suddenly, only to be rekindled three years later, when the pair’s paths cross again while trying to hustle a race car owner named Farhad (Adrian Martinez).
“Focus” flies by at a brisk 105 minutes, leaving the audience little downtime to think about possible plot holes.
There are two really well-constructed set pieces involving cons, one at the Super Bowl and one in the final act, that the directors pull off quite well.
Smith shows the charisma and charm that made him a star before recent setbacks like “After Earth,” while Robbie builds on her work in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” providing the perfect mix of sex appeal and brains.
There is also a good supporting performance from TV veteran Gerald McRaney as Farhad’s no-nonsense muscle man.
Your tolerance for “Focus” might depend on how much you enjoy the genre. If you are a fan of films like “The Sting” and “The Gambler,” then Focus should hold your interest.
But even if you aren’t, Smith and Robbie are good enough to keep those audience members engaged.
Also in theaters
The week’s other new release, “The Lazarus Effect” (D+), suffers a much different fate than “Focus.”
Despite a talented cast, “Lazarus” is a sub-par horror film taken from spare parts of more successful films.
In “The Lazarus Effect,” Frank (Mark Duplass) and Zoe (Olivia Wilde) are among a group of medical students (including Sarah Bolger, Donald Glover and Evan Peters) who discover a way to bring the dead back to life.
When Zoe is killed during one of the experiments, Frank opts to bring her back to life – despite objections from the rest of the group.
Zoe is revived, only to come back with a totally different persona – one that poses danger to everyone.
“Lazarus Effect” is basically a bit of “Frankenstein,” with a little “Flatliners” and “Lucy” mixed in.
The film slogs along in a predictable, dull manner, with the cast not given much to work with. The film bogs down in lots of debate about the possibility of afterlife – clearly an attempt to give this film more meaning, when it should have just gone full-fledged horror mode.
The only sliver of life comes during a couple of scenes that allow Wilde to have a playful tinge to her evil persona, with a devilish twinkle in her eyes that suggests a bit of self awareness.
If the film had more of that, it may have been at least passable.
As it is, it’s a rather forgettable experience – even for fans of the horror genre.
“The Lazarus Effect” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of horror violence, terror and some sexual references and is now playing at the Regal Bowling Green Stadium 12 and Highland Cinemas in Glasgow.
— To read Micheal Compton’s thoughts on all things movies, visit his blog at bgdailynews.com/sports/blogs/straight_outta_compton or on Twitter at twitter.com/mcompton428. Email him at email@example.com.