Movie Review: Now You See Me

This one only just hit Aussie cinemas, despite going Stateside in May. Who knows why.

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Starring:
Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman
Director:
Louis Leterrier (The Transporter, Clash of the Titans)
Rating: M
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Regardless of whatever I’m about to say in this review, Louis Leterrier‘s Now You See Me undoubtedly deserves some credit for being marketed really well. It has a quite frankly incredible cast, a snazzy look and a captivating concept that brings to mind a mash-up of Christopher Nolan‘s The Prestige and the very successful Ocean’s Eleven franchise. Magicians who rob banks – now ain’t that novel? It certainly wasn’t afraid to flaunt any of these strengths during the many months of trailers, posters and hype that preceded its American release and now, a month and a half later, its Australian one. When it comes to actually watching the movie play out on screen, though, it may become apparent that (oh boy, I just can’t wait to type this) the real magic trick is the movie itself. It deceives you into thinking it’s good. Abracadabra.

Make no mistake; everything that looks cool about the trailers is actually in the movie – no-one is getting duped in that department. Now You See Me is sufficiently flashy and slick in the visuals department, the occasional ineffective CGI flourish aside, and it manages to keep audiences guessing, as it should. That amazing cast is put to work in the opening scenes of the film, as we are introduced to the Four Horsemen, a group of specially chosen street magicians who collaborate to pull off a series of heists in order to achieve a goal that is never fully explained or justified.

Woody Harrelson plays a disgraced hypnotist, Isla Fisher an escape artist, Jesse Eisenberg a typically arrogant jerk and Dave Franco a young pickpocket who shares some accidental traits with the X-Man Gambit. The four actors sizzle on screen, looking like they are thoroughly enjoying themselves as they trade banter and transferring that enjoyment to the audience. Unfortunately, after their introductions and a cracking interrogation sequence following their first big heist, they are barely ever seen again offstage for the remainder of the movie. Potential subplots regarding their interpersonal relationships are just dropped halfway through the film, never to be seen again.

Michael Caine is along for the ride, playing a part that roughly equates to being a wealthy passenger for most of the film. He does get the chance to get his menace on, however, and his conversations with Morgan Freeman‘s magic debunking character are a highlight. The two thespians clearly enjoy working together. Freeman has the most screen time of all the top-billed actors here and he shares most of it with Mark Ruffalo, the latter playing a cop who is way out of his depth on the case of the Horsemen heists.

Speaking of these heists, the major plot thread of Now You See Me follows three of them, all supposedly linked in true Hollywood magic movie style. Truthfully, while it can be expected that the audience engage in a certain amount of suspension of disbelief with this kind of movie, the amount that Now You See Me demands is just a bridge too far. You could drop a bank vault safe through some of the logical plot holes in this film.

What’s more, the third and final magic set-piece is astonishingly weak and largely pointless when compared to the first two and the ultimate reveal that supposedly ties everything together comes from the school of amateur twist-writing. It isn’t quite on the level of the atrocious stinger at the end of The Tourist in terms of sheer, cheap, unforeshadowed belief-stretching, but it comes close enough to be slightly nauseating. And it’s all topped off with a very confusing final few scenes that solve next to nothing about the nature of our Horsemen’s motives. There’s nothing quite like feeling cheated as an audience member.

At the end of the show Now You See Me gets a pass from me because it’s ambitious, it has its entertaining moments, and there just aren’t enough magic-themed films around these days. The film is heavily flawed, oftentimes frustrating and ultimately pretty disappointing, but I can’t really begrudge anyone who wants to see it anyway.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Gorgeous aesthetic, enjoyable chemistry between actors, magic!
Bad:
Gigantic plot holes, underused main characters, terrible ending
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2.5 VsA L R I G H T

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