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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

Hush Puppy Love

Focus (2015) on IMDb

Plot Overview

“Focus” opens with some long takes of NYC freeway interchanges showing traffic merging with each other. Then we go to a well-dressed black man Nicky Spurgeon (Will Smith) making a dinner reservation. In the restaurant a hot white chick Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) needing an excuse to dump the gentle­man making moves on her, she invents a waiting friend (“He's right there”) and goes over and sits down with Nicky (“He's my friend.”) The latter, a third-generation cut­purse, makes the former, an ingénue pick­pocket, right away and as a matter of satisfying her “professional curiosity” gives her some pointers on the trade, in the shadow of the Lincoln Center Tower. “The human brain is slow and it can­not multi­task,” he demonstrates.

Impressed, she follows him like a puppy dog to New Orleans another racially mixed city where a black thief stands a chance. She begs him to include her with his cronies on their next hit (“I want in.”) After she demonstrates her skills, they accept her (“You're in.”) Besides the business deal (“Jess, she's our new intern,”) she and Nicky dabble in a puppy love arrangement. “What about the big con?” she asks him. “We are in the volume business. Safer that way,” he replies. The implication is that a black man will be watched more suspiciously when big money is involved. He praises Jess for being “kinda invisible out there.” Together as a couple they would stick out like a marsh­mallow in a cup of dark cocoa. His father warned him about being too soft in the heart, a “marsh­mallow.” That's how he got his nick­name ‘Mellow’.

They really score a lot of volume at the Mercedes Superdome in Miami for the Super­bowl a sports event drawing a lot of rich folk as well as blacks to blend in with (“Where are the black people?”) When Nicky does some private betting with a crazy china­man LiYuan (BD Wong) to the accompaniment of the Rolling Stones, “Sympathy for the Devil,” he gets soaked (“I'm f_cked!”) Wong is on his way to Las Vegas after telling Nick, “Sorry friend. That's what happens when you play with the big boys.” Nicky gives Jess her cut (“Your job is over. You did great”) and seems to walk away without the soft emotion his dad had criticized him for.

Three years later, they both independently end up in Buenos Aires, Argentina for a big Formula One race. Not only is this a famously mixed-race city, but Nick is playing the natural part of a dis­gruntled employee willing to sell out his boss's EXR fuel-mixing algorithm to the competition. It's part of a con (“Just do what you're being paid to do, shit­head!”) Jess is pegged as a “race skank.” The music plays, “White Bird” by It's a Beautiful Day. Some burned employers visit the Farmacia to purchase some duct tape to take care of a “thieving piece of shit” who ignored his “three generations of skills” and his father's advice that, “Love will get you killed in this racket.” The only institution that might help the hap­less couple doesn't seem to be putting itself out, and they're left with the music, “Feel so Good.”


The Wisdom books of the Apocrypha are accepted by the Protestants for edification purposes though they be not included in the canon. Among them is Eccles­ias­ticus, also known as The Wisdom of the Son of Sirach. Portions seem applicable to “Focus” as follows: There's the matter of the con man's supreme confidence, or that of Jess under his tutelage: “You're calm. You don't panic. You actually rally when the going gets tough.” (Sirach 22:16-18)

As timber girt and bound together in a building cannot be loosed with shaking: so the heart that is stablished by advised counsel shall fear at no time. A heart settled upon a thought of under­standing is as a fair plais­tering on the wall of a gallery. Pales set on an high place will never stand against the wind: so a fear­ful heart in the imagin­ation of a fool cannot stand against any fear.

There's the upbringing that Nicky's father gave him. (Sirach 30:1-6)

He that loveth his son causeth him oft to feel the rod, that he may have joy of him in the end. He that chastiseth his son shall have joy in him, and shall rejoice of him among his acquaintance. He that teacheth his son grieveth the enemy: and before his friends he shall rejoice of him. Though his father die, yet he is as though he were not dead: for he hath left one behind him that is like him­self. While he lived, he saw and rejoiced in him: and when he died, he was not sorrow­ful. He left behind him an avenger against his enemies, and one that shall requite kindness to his friends.

I mean, that dad was not slack. (Sirach 30:7-12)

He that maketh too much of his son shall bind up his wounds; and his bowels will be troubled at every cry. An horse not broken becometh head­strong: and a child left to him­self will be wilful. Cocker thy child, and he shall make thee afraid: play with him, and he will bring thee to heavi­ness. Laugh not with him, lest thou have sorrow with him, and lest thou gnash thy teeth in the end. Give him no liberty in his youth, and wink not at his follies. Bow down his neck while he is young, and beat him on the sides while he is a child, lest he wax stub­born, and be diso­bedient unto thee, and so bring sorrow to thine heart.

The plan was for Nicky to use drunkenness as a ruse to appear vulner­able to compromising his employer. He made a pretty good show of it: (Sirach 34:25-31) [alt Sir. 31:25-31]

Shew not thy valiantness in wine; for wine hath destroyed many. The furnace proveth the edge by dipping: so doth wine the hearts of the proud by drunken­ness. Wine is as good as life to a man, if it be drunk moderately: what life is then to a man that is without wine? for it was made to make men glad. Wine measurably drunk and in season bringeth gladness of the heart, and cheer­ful­ness of the mind: But wine drunken with excess maketh bitter­ness of the mind, with brawling and quar­rel­ling. Drunken­ness increaseth the rage of a fool till he offend: it diminisheth strength, and maketh wounds. Rebuke not thy neighbour at the wine, and despise him not in his mirth: give him no despiteful words, and press not upon him with urging him [to drink.]

Love and marriage lead to settling down. Is that really in the cards for Nicky and Jess? (Sirach 36:24-26)

He that getteth a wife beginneth a possession, a help like unto himself, and a pillar of rest. Where no hedge is, there the possession is spoiled: and he that hath no wife will wander up and down mourning. Who will trust a thief well appointed, that skippeth from city to city? so [who will believe] a man that hath no house, and lodgeth where­soever the night taketh him?

Production Values

“Focus” (2015) was written and directed by Glenn Ficara and John Requa. It stars Will Smith, Margot Robbie, and Rodrigo Santoro. The leads are strong. Margot Robbie gives it her all. The supporting cast is passable to good. Nicky's best friend Farhad (Adrian Martinez), whose character is integral to the plot, delivers some great lines.

MPAA rated it R for language, some sexual content, and brief violence. The cinema­tog­raphy was beautiful. Ditto the locations, wardrobes, and sets. Sound and lighting were very good, too. It's the story that was lack­luster, but at least we could follow the plot. The chemistry between the two leads just didn't exist.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

This story pulls the rug out from under our feet. What can we trust? There's no Federal Government to guarantee equal crime opportunity to every two-bit crook. The police are unable to protect the possessions of the rich. A father's wise advice is ignored. Love, which should reign supreme in a Holly­wood film, seems to be leading to a dead end. Further­more, we can't even trust our own powers of observation as every­body is playing every­one else out of view. Since nature abhors a vacuum, what we are left with is the mere suggestion that black people are thieves and they exist on the margins of society. But it doesn't say that. That would be prejudicial.

Because it was technically well executed, I enjoyed the film, and I can appreciate a different kind of story. There was no warning, but that can be part of its appeal. You need to make up your own mind.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Decent action scenes. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good for a Rainy Day. Suspense: Several suspenseful moments. Overall movie rating: three and a half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Apocryphal scripture taken from The Septuagint with Apoc­rypha: Greek and English. U.S.A.: Hendrick­son Pub. Originally published by Samuel Bagster & Sons, Ltd., London, 1851. Print, WEB.