Now You See Me
Aside from a not-so-new twist, this movie is an entertaining illusion
Four magicians, drawn together by a mysterious puppet master, team up to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Think Robin Hood with flash paper and sequins. As if pillaging the bank accounts of the one-percent isn’t hard enough, the illusionists must evade the pernicious attention of an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo: Iron Man 3) tasked with lowering the curtain on this charitable crime spree.
The dream team of magicians, named The Four Horsemen, each brings a special skill to the capers. J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg: To Rome with Love) is a skilled illusionist with a quick wit and a smug attitude. Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher: The Great Gatsby) is Atlas’ former assistant and an escape artist in her own right. Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson: Seven Psychopaths) is a mentalist who can hypnotize people and decipher his marks’ darkest secrets via facial cues. Jack Wilder (Dave Franco: Warm Bodies) is a skilled pickpocket.
The team forms when all four receive mysterious invitations to visit a derelict apartment in New York. Clearly this savvy foursome has never seen a Saw movie. Instead of meeting their doom, they get plans for three ultimate magic tricks that not only defy the laws of logic but also enable the team to redistribute wealth to their audience.
Though the magicians have never met the fifth horseman, they’re content to follow his instructions, robbing banks and fat cats using illusions. It’s Occupy Wall Street with more showmanship.
As The Four Horsemen build toward their greatest trick, they must also evade the government and their furious rich victims.
There is a fundamental problem with most movies about magicians: Movies are already magic. Hollywood is a business of tricks and misdirection with directors as the illusionists. Steven Spielberg brought dinosaurs to life in Jurassic Park; James Cameron sunk the Titanic; Cameron Crowe convinced the world that Cuba Gooding Jr. deserved an Oscar. When you’re used to master illusions, it’s hard to conjure excitement for Eisenberg’s card trick.
Still, as a caper comedy and not a magic show, Now You See Me is breezy, hilarious fun. Harrelson is an underused delight as a misanthropic mentalist. He lights up the screen whenever he puts people under, and it’s a shame he had to share the spotlight with the other horsemen. Ruffalo is amusing as a Fed in way over his head. With solid supporting turns from Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, the movie is easy to enjoy, despite its holes.
If director Louis Leterrier (Clash of the Titans) had lost the extraneous romantic line and focused more on the intricacies of each trick, the movie could have been fascinating.
As with most caper flicks, there’s a big twist in the third act. If you’ve ever seen a movie before, you’ll guess it long before it’s revealed.