Focus is set in the amazing and alluring world of con artists that is so dear to writers and filmmakers. Here are the smooth-tongued folk who lavish attention on undeserving candidates, the deft purse snatches and credit card thefts, and the sinfully wealthy victims who deserve to be looted.

Indeed, Rodrigo Santoro’s biggest crime in Focus is that his character, racing car team owner Garriga, displays more comfort with the trappings of wealth in a single move than does Will Smith’s con artist extraordinaire Nicky in the whole movie. Not that Smith and the filmmakers are shirkers. Smith puts on his sharpest threads and wears his best hopefully suave and moody expression, but neither suit nor facial mask fit well enough.

Nicky runs a minor army of tricksters whose latest recruit, the bottle blonde Jess (Margot Robbie, best known for playing Jordan Belfort’s trophy wife in The Wolf of Wall Street) catches his eye. Jess isn’t just incredibly fast and clever, she is also available for in-between stuff. Nicky and Jess snap personal and professional ties after a successful heist, only to meet again over an assignment Nicky is carrying out for Garriga.

Smith and Robbie gamely try to get it on, but Jack Foley and Karen Cisco they are not. Writers and directors Glenn Ficarra and John Reque compensate for the lack of combustion between the ill-matched leads and smart one-liner by piling on gorgeous colours and tones and a few effective tricks, one of which involves a Chinese gambler and two renditions of the Rolling Stones’ Sympathy for the Devil. The supporting characters aren’t as interesting as sidekicks in con movies need to be, but Gerald McRaney has a great sequence in which he nearly reduces Nicky to a nervous wreck. The romance that supposedly underpins the drama never takes off – Smith looks tired and Robbie isn’t polished enough – but the cons fulfil their mandate and the movie has enough good sense to call it quits at 105 minutes.