Film Review: ‘Focus’

Every movie star is a con artist of sorts, seducing audiences into forking over millions by adopting a character bigger than him- or herself. But what to do when the streak falters? Will Smith made his film debut as a high-society scammer in “Six Degrees of Separation,” and now, a bit more than 21 years later, he’s back at the hustle in “Focus,” a sexy sleight-of-hand caper that feels small-time by the tentpole king’s standards, though a solid opening ought to prove Smith’s ongoing drawing power — and that there is life after the commercial debacle of 2013’s “After Earth.” Lithely directed by the duo responsible for “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” this suave if quick-to-dissipate divertissement shrewdly recasts the star in the George Clooney mold — a good look for the next stage of Smith’s career.

With the rare exception of 2005’s hit “Hitch,” romance hasn’t really been Smith’s bag.Some stars build their entire careers on it, while others hardly ever let love factor into their work (as those developing material for Dwayne Johnson know, “the Rock don’t do romance,” for example). In the two decades since Jerry Bruckheimer got his hooks in him with “Bad Boys,” Smith has mostly led with his swagger, whereas here, he dips into the vulnerability that served him well in riskier outings, such as…  read more