Now You See Me
2013, 115mins, 12
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer (S): Boaz Yakin, Ed Solomon, Edward Recourt
Cast includes: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
UK Release Date: 3rd July 2013
“Now You See Me” regularly instructs the viewer to look closely, summarising that by scrutinizing the smaller elements you’ll miss the bigger picture. The movie does eventually make good on this unofficial coda, with a reveal few audience members will see coming, and even fewer are liable to accept. The film isn’t a total bust, allowing great actors’ individual moments of delirious showmanship, but “Now You See Me” transforms into claptrap during its second half, descending into a mire of pointless imagery and silly plotting. Logic was never going to be the friend of a magician-heist flick helmed by the dude behind “Clash of the Titans”, but the extent of the friction far surpasses even what I anticipated. “Now You See Me” is a dumb movie; slickly made, rife with spirited performances and prone to occasional moments of dizzying wonderment. But that doesn’t change the fact it boasts fewer functional brain cells than a blonde rock.
Excitedly recruited by powers unknown, four street magicians are morphed into a band of global superstars known as the Four Horsemen. Egotist Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg), ambitious Henley (Isla Fisher) mischievous Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and snappy youngster Jack (Dave Franco) come to the attention of the FBI when they rob a Parisian bank during a stage show, showering the crowds with millions in pilfered currency. Agent Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol desk-jockey Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) are reluctantly paired to decode the case, desperately attempting to stick evidence or motives on the cocksure entertainers. As the Four Horsemen’s thefts escalate, Rhodes and Dray chase the elusive gang all across the country, stumbling at every turn. Eventually they turn to the mysterious Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) - a specialist in debunking magicians- for answers. Yet even he might be ill-equipped to fathom the Four Horsemen’s ultimate goal before the pesky tricksters attain it.
Louis Leterrier proves a decent fit with the material, the French film-maker imbuing the product with glossy panache and an understanding of set-piece science. “Now You See Me” is a film of separate moments, some of which hit welcome peaks of sumptuous popcorn entertainment. The strongest example is the movie’s secondary show, executed in a New Orleans’ theatre; the sequence a solidly structured blend of money-shots and question-baiting smarts. This 15-minute window fully demonstrates how good “Now You See Me” might have been, had it stuck to gently toying with audience expectation and delivering concisely executed action. Leterrier sifts between a ballsy outcome, cool magic tricks and a satisfactory foot-chase competently, incurring amusement in a giddy fashion. Sadly other chunks of proceedings decide that defying logic through sheer idiocy is a more appropriate route, running the movie into a fit of brainless tedium.
Characters are established efficiently and some of the performances are very credible. Eisenberg, Fisher and Harrelson are the chief purveyors of dynamic thespian fizz, but Mark Ruffalo and Morgan Freeman aren’t too far behind. No, the issues here stem from uneven storytelling and an attempt to come across as intelligent. There’s nothing more grating than a moron posturing as a genius, and that’s exactly how the final throws of “Now You See Me” appear. There’s an unexpected twist, but it adds precious little weight or meaning to the feature, simply fiddling with little hints and tips belted out during the stronger, earlier segments. I’m not sure what the film is trying to say, although I assure you somewhere in its muddled DNA the picture harbours a fuzzily established, needlessly self-aggrandizing moral. It doesn’t help that “Now You See Me” only fully embraces mystery come the finale, cramming as many explanations into the flat climax as possible. When the movie is diverting it doesn’t burden itself with half-baked resolutions or exhaustingly dull contrivances. Instead it banks on the rowdier scenes packing enough momentum to supply ample gas, much to its benefit. With “Now You See Me” less is more. When not desperately slithering around begging for you to gasp at its attempted cleverness, the feature is very tolerable. Sadly the denouement practically devotes itself to undeserved notions of cerebral superiority.
Placing magicians on the run sounds like a delightful summer conceit, and there are times when Leterrier moulds the idea into a jovial movie going experience. However the screenplay over-reaches, highlighting its rickety foundations in a rather ugly and unflattering manner. It’s a miss that occasionally threatens to transform into a homerun, but ultimately “Now You See Me” strikes out. Consider the piece a nearly man of its own dopey volition.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013