BY NANCY R. MANDELL
If you still harbor fond memories of movies like THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR (Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway), CHARADE (Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant), and even something called DEAD HEAT ON A MERRY-GO-ROUND (James Coburn and Camila Sparv), make room in your schedule for FOCUS, the latest in a genre I’ll call romantic-caper-comedy. Not counting the successful 1999 remake of THOMAS CROWN with Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo, all three of those films were made in the 1960’s, so it’s possible you don’t know what I’m talking about.
More recent attempts to duplicate the twisty plots, attractive leads, and clever dialogue that keep those movies so fresh in my mind ended in heavy-handed disasters like DUPLICITY (2009) and DERAILED (2005)--both of which starred Clive Owen, an actor I really like, poorly paired with Julia Roberts and Jennifer Aniston respectively.
In truth, thanks to the music behind the closing credits, my THOMAS CROWN flashback may be more Pavlovian than historical, but I’ll leave you to make that subtle connection for yourself. Meanwhile, sit back and enjoy Will Smith--totally credible as Nicky, a super-smooth con man whose talents range from lifting watches off street “marks” to out-scamming the scammers. He can close a deal on his own, or lead a troupe of grifters to a take of more than $1 million from a Super Bowl weekend.