Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Focus Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Will Smith stars as Nicky, a seasoned master of misdirection who becomes romantically involved with novice con artist Jess (Margot Robbie). As he’s teaching her the tricks of the trade, she gets too close for comfort and he abruptly breaks it off. Three years later, the former flame—now an accomplished femme fatale—shows up in Buenos Aires in the middle of the high stakes racecar circuit. In the midst of Nicky’s latest, very dangerous scheme, she throws his plans for a loop…and the consummate con man off his game.

(Brief plot summary to avoid spoilers)
Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) is a seasoned con man. He comes from a long line of men in the business. He meets a very green con artist Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) and begins to mentor her.  He makes her a part of the crew and she assists the team in cleaning up in New Orleans. Nicky pulls a big con on an unsuspecting businessman, and uses Jess in the plan. Jess’ ignorance made the plan work and she sits smiling and satisfied as they drive away. Nicky hands Jess her cut and sends her on her way, heartbroken and betrayed.

Fast forward three years and Nicky is in Buenos Aires working a con related to the racing circuit.  Billionaire Rafael Garriga (Rodrigo Santoro) wants to con his competition and Nicky takes the job.  He has to work with Garriga’s security (Gerald McRaney) and is surprised to find Jess in the middle of his deal. Nicky is unprepared for the twists that will come at him in his biggest con.

When Focus was in theaters, it seemed as though every commercial on TV was for the film. Worse than the frequency was the fact that it was always the same exact trailer. I was so sick of the trailer that I didn’t want to go and see the film. I now admit I shouldn’t have held the advertising against it.  Focus takes you on a fun ride. It becomes obvious early on that nothing is what it seems. You wonder if there is any honor amongst thieves. Trying to guess who is on the up and up gets you nowhere. The film could have gone in many different directions, and I’ll admit the direction it went wasn’t one I had considered.

Focus has just the right amount of thriller tucked into its drama and it worked for me. I haven’t read anyone else’s reviews nor had any friends that saw the film.  I suspect that this is a love it or hate it kind of film. Some people will enjoy the ending they didn’t see coming and others will be annoyed by it.  It’s well acted and clearly very well researched. As Nicky’s team cleans up in New Orleans you’ll think twice about keeping your wallet in your pocket or leaving a purse unattended ever again.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Focus is crisp and clean on Blu-ray and is everything you’d expect in 1080p high definition. The color palette is rich in this moody film. New Orleans feels historic while Buenos Aires is set in the stark whites that make you wish you were on vacation. Skin tones are accurate and even throughout the film with strong levels of detail.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Focus features a stellar DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix. The film is subtle and doesn’t contain much gunfire or directional elements to make you look over your shoulder but it does offer a rich well bodied audio track. Dialogue is intelligible throughout the weighty and authentic audio presentation.
Extras (2 1/2 out of 5 stars) 
The Blu-ray disc contains a few brief featurettes, deleted scenes and an alternate opening. Only deleted scenes are found on the DVD.
  • Masters of Misdirection: The Players in a Con (10:19): Consultant Apollo Robbins, who has been called the world’s best pick-pocket, explains the deception behind the action.  If acting doesn’t work out, it looks like Margot Robbie could hold her own as a pickpocket.
  • Will Smith: Gentleman Thief – (5:44) A look at the smooth and intense Nicky Spurgeon who appears to have a much heavier heart than Will Smith.  Watching Smith excitedly discuss his character shows you how different the two men’s personalities really are.
  • Margot Robbie: Stealing Hearts – (4:01) This featurette focuses on Margot Robbie and how she learned the tricks of the trade.  Apollo Robbins compliments her technique and ability to learn.  This extra contains a bit of duplication from Will Smith’s featurette but is still enjoyable.
  • Deleted Scenes – (7:56) A collection of deleted scenes that understandably had to be cut but provide interesting background information and humorous ad libs.
  • Alternate Opening - (2:43) An alternate opening with Nicky pulling a job at a jewelry store.
  • Trailers – Trailers for San Andreas and Entourage play automatically when starting the Blu-ray but cannot be selected from the menu of special features.  The DVD the two trailers on the Blu-ray plus a PSA and trailers for One Night to Live, Get Hard.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
Focus pleasantly surprised me, bringing more thrill to the con game than I expected. Will Smith teaches his protégé that “you never drop the con, die with the lie.”  With the multi-levels of deception, the viewer can never be sure if they’ve seen the real Nicky. Although the film does have a twist ending, it is not the kind that would ruin the film for future viewings. Even if you know the conclusion, Focus remains entertaining. The Blu-ray contains and impressive audio and video presentation as well as a short but pleasurable list of special features. I recommend adding this Blu-ray to your collection.

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