"You get them to focus, and you take whatever you want." Such is the art of the steal that veteran con man Nicky (Will Smith) explains to junior con artist Jess (Margot Robbie), whom he's begun tutoring. Will they fall in love over pilfered watches? Likely. Will trust always be an issue? For sure. Do women need men to explain complicated stuff to them? Always. (Pay attention, ladies!)
This amiable who's-zooming-who caper from Glenn Ficarra and John Requa is split into two chapters. The first finds our couple hard at work at a New Orleans sporting event, freeing drunk and distracted fans from their jewelry, credit cards, gadgets, wallets and so on. It's a scary-fun tutorial through every possible terrible thing some well-organized con artist could lift from you, and you'll surely hold your popcorn a little closer. (Real-life "gentleman thief" Apollo Robbins is an adviser to the film.) This adventure is capped by the film's nerviest scene, in which Nicky goes head-to-head with a high-stakes compulsive gambler (B.D. Wong) at the big game.
Then the film moves to Buenos Aires and settles in for a long con, involving Formula One racing, and every bit of it — from the are-they-or-aren't-they romance to the various plot twists — feels a lot more contrived and a lot less zippy. Still, plenty of Focus gets by — like any good con man — on the easy charm and good looks of its stars. If you're left a trifle unsatisfied, remember next time not to get distracted upfront by shiny objects like Will Smith.