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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Focus (Blu-ray)
Focus (Blu-ray)
Warner Bros. // R // June 2, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $44.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Ryan Keefer | posted May 26, 2015 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

I'm not going to lie; seeing Will Smith in what appeared to be a decidedly more grown up role in Focus piqued my interest. Plus it looked like he was going to be a grifter too? Well then, this would certainly make for some interesting viewing. In fact, any marquee star who sewed his oats in popcorn blockbusters (Smith's Oscar nomination in The Pursuit of Happyness aside) who decides to take on a role that would appear to be some change of pace does tend to perk my ears up to see how it manages to unfold.

Focus is written and directed by Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (I Love You Phillip Morris), and Smith plays Nicky, a con man who is having a quiet drink to himself when we first see him. We see him run into Jess (Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street), who we later find out plays the con as well. We learn that Nicky knows this and has been tracking Jess and her husband as she tries to find and steal from a mark, and he decides to take her under his wing. He flies her to New Orleans, she meets his crew, she learns about the tricks of the trade. After a particularly charged con where Nicky takes a million dollars from a wealthy Chinese businessman, he gives Jess her cut and leaves her. Consider it a "learning the last lesson in the book" exercise of some sort. Flash forward three years, and Nicky is working for Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro, 300), who owns a racing team. Nicky's role is to earn the confidence of a rival team owner and sabotage the car that the other owner has, but when Nicky runs into Jess, who is not only more accomplished but is Garriga's girlfriend, that complicates things for all involved.

Seeing Nicky attempt to deal with his demons, almost envisioning the con as a fix and seeing the adrenaline he gets out of doing it, which ventures almost quickly into recklessness, is fascinating to watch. As a viewer, you not only get to experience this, but experience a pseudo high level within the way Nicky and his team work and Smith does a good job of carrying this along. Watching Nicky and Jess go from mentor and protege to lovers is an inevitable point to get to, and Smith handles this well. Coincidentally, Robbie holds her own weight onscreen too, not only in her scenes with Smith, but as the film slyly switches things in the second half to where she is more of the...center of attention onscreen, Jess is a underrated smart character and Robbie expresses this well.

As the film moves on, however, Focus seems to face the task of reconciling their protagonist's fate with the fact that box office megastar Will Smith is the one playing that protagonist, and as Act Two moves into Act Three, the story starts to build implausibility to the point where they think the reveal is justified (it's not), but in the process waste two decent supporting turns by Santoro and Gerald McRaney (House of Cards), who plays Owens.

I will presume that hopefully Smith enjoyed his little experiment as Nicky and that he will go all the way with a similar character or story in the future. If you are going to take Vienna, then take Vienna, Will. I have a feeling your audience will respect you for it. In the meantime, Focus seems a little self-indulgent while preserving a bit of actor vanity, which is both disappointing and a little insulting if we're being honest.

The Blu-ray Disc:
The Video:

Focus is presented in 1.85:1 widescreen and in high-definition using the AVC codec, and things look gorgeous throughout. The film gets a variety of locations to shoot from, and they all look vibrant, with ample amounts of detail in them, be it facial pores or individual strands of hair. In a sports stadium, audience members can easily be pointed out during the wave, in closer moments clothing textures and colors are discernible and accurate, and the flesh tones are as natural as can be. Nary a hint of DNR that I could spot, and if there was any image haloing, instances are minimal at best. Warner has provided a quality transfer to Focus and quietly have done excellent work on the Blu-rays I've seen from them thus far in 2015.

The Sound:

The DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack was a curious choice at first, considering the source material. Then you start to listen to it and see why, as the film includes several extended moments of dynamic range that the soundtrack delivers superbly on. Early on in the film when Nicky and Jess go to the faux Super Bowl in New Orleans, the crowd roars on big plays, and directional effects like the odd individual yell can be made out. In fact, when the crowd is hyped up, I swore I could have heard "Zombie Rock" underneath the din (give it a search, and when you hear it you'll know). The music in the club sequence comes through cleanly with effective low-end presence that rumbles, moments before that, a meeting near a Formula 1 racetrack provides just as much power, even channel panning which overall, makes for a surprisingly immersive experience. The softer moments are consistent and well-balanced to boot. All in all a very impressive presentation.


Five small featurettes, a standard definition disc to go with the Blu-ray, and a digital copy via Ultraviolet are the entire package. "Masters of Misdirection" (10:25) looks at Apollo Robbins, the film's technical advisor, but also unofficial inspiration for the film. He discusses his involvement in the production, but when talking about the cons/plays, he examines the roles of each player on the team and their importance. Tutorial video footage from Robbins to Robbie is also included, and it is an interesting piece. "Gentleman Thief" (5:52) looks at Will Smith in the role, and the thoughts of the cast and crew on his work in it, and what makes him convincing. "Stealing Hearts" (4:08) looks at Robbie in much the same light, but her preparation as a pickpocket is shown too. Four deleted scenes follow (8:02) and the scenes are forgettable, despite having some alternate takes among them. An alternate opening for the movie (2:44) is the last extra to speak of.

Final Thoughts:

Yet another film that is interesting in intent in how it uses an above the title name, Focus has some good ideas and tries to hold onto them as long as possible, but it eventually dissolves into a gradual waste of time for the viewer. Technically, the film is breathtaking, though the bonus materials are scant. I would probably limit this to a rental, even for fans of Smith, but if you are looking to maximize your summer fun time, you can probably skip it.

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