Wait until Now You See Me is in the dollar theater, whereupon you can imagine this film is ordering, “Now you see me!”
Built upon an interesting premise and some nuggets of fascinating characters, it doesn’t quite pull of the spectacle it was shooting for and the ‘twists’ aren’t twists so much as they are ‘out of the blues.’
Here’s a trailer:
Released May 31, 2013
Written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt
Directed by Louis Leterrier
Starring Isla Fisher, Melanie Laurent, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, and Michael J. Kelly
* * * * *
Four magicians who have had hit and miss careers are brought together by a mysterious party. One of the magicians is an accomplished, fast-talking trickster called J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg). Another is a mentalist named Merritt McKinney (Harrelson). The third is Henley Reeves (Fisher), a female magician whose last trick went terribly wrong. And the final of the four is Jack Wilder (Franco), a wily illusionist.
These four are brought together by the mysterious party and we fast forward to them pulling incredible stunts, wherein they teleport a man from the stage in Vegas to a bank vault in Paris and proceed to steal the bank’s money, giving it to their audience. They clearly have an endgame in sight– this isn’t random stuff, and they themselves don’t fully understand why they are being asked to do this by their mysterious benefactor.
Since they’re robbing banks, an FBI agent is sent after them. He is Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo), a cynical fellow who dismisses them as common thieves. He is paired with Alma Dray (Laurent) a semi-rookie Interpol agent who is involved due to the first job happening in Paris. They rope in a well-known former magician who now makes his money by revealing magicians’ secrets. This is Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman), who clearly has a past that he prefers to remain murky.
Finally, you have Arthur Tressler (Caine), who financed the Vegas show and looks to make a large profit off ticket sales as the buzz surrounding our four magicians grows.
These magicians call themselves the Four Horsemen.
So now we have a film that is all about illusion, heists, running from the dogged special agent duo, and which somehow, for a movie about magic, is rather bland. You have reveals that come out of nowhere and the audience is led by the nose through two or three different plots.
Agents Rhodes and Dray get closer to the Four Horsemen, but the question is can they stop the four thieves before they escape? And the next question is: why would they want to stop them?
As reveals come hot and heavy, Now You See Me transforms into an escape flick where brains are used and the good guys, of course, come out on top.
Now You See Me spends part of its time being ambitious and part of its time deflating the wonder of the eye-popping illusions with lame revelations of how it’s all done. What results is an at-times truly engaging and fun flick and an at-times dreary film that takes the wonder away.
Helpfully, the plot skips along at a blistering pace and it does not wallow in weird non-linearness that keeps the audience from following along. The relationship and chemistry between Rhodes and Dray are nicely developed, whereas the relationships between the Four Horsemen are given very short shrift- which is too bad.
We want to know more about these people. We want to see their journey from middling magicians to spectacular show people. We want to see them being confused about what they’re doing and questioning their mysterious puppet master. Some of this is touched on in passing, but it’s not enough.
When all is said and done, the final, overall end scene between Rhodes and Dray rescues the film from the penultimate scene on the carousel- which feels a little too much of a cop-out. We see that all along a human has had human motivations and has been running a massive plot to try to rectify a wrong, but we needed to see that motivation earlier and more interspersed throughout.
Now You See Me could have been more and better if it had taken more time to figure out who its protagonist(s) were and spent more time helping the audience care about them. As it is, it is a fine film without much of a sympathetic core- mainly because it’s too busy being busy with effects and debunking and twists.
As for the acting, not much is asked of these actors. Ruffalo and Laurent turn in solid performances, Franco does a very nice job, and Eisenberg does his fast-talking smug jerk just as well as usual.
Content warnings: some salty language.
Writing: 3.5 Acting: 4.5 Overall: 3.5
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