TRICKY: From left, Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco put on a show in Now You See Me.
REVIEW: Now You See Me
M, 2hr 10min
Reviewed by Jonathon Howe.
On the surface Now You See Me is an exhilarating tale of magical trickery and redemption, featuring impressive performances from a star-studded cast and some flashy CGI.
But take a closer look and you’ll see French director Louis Leterrier has performed an impressive sleight of hand by misdirecting the audience from its weak characterisation, illogical plot holes and disconnected narrative.
Things start off well as we’re treated to a breakneck introduction to the Four Horsemen, a group of talented magicians each with unique skills. The group consists of arrogant sleight-of-hand artist J Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), escapist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), street magician and pickpocket Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and mentalist and hypnotist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson). The standouts are Eisenberg, channelling his Zuckerberg persona, portraying a man who holds almost everyone in the highest contempt; and Harrelson, whose performance is tempered with a sadistic but hilarious streak.
Brought together by a mysterious benefactor and sponsored by rich insurance company magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), the group perform the seemingly impossible by robbing a bank in France while performing a show in Las Vegas. Showering the crowd in the millions of stolen dollars, the magical Robin Hoods then embark on a series of crimes while being trailed by grizzled FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and French Interpol operative Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent).
Thrown into the mix is Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who makes a living debunking magic tricks. Bradley’s mind games are enjoyable to watch but, other than a convenient tie-in in the third act, his character doesn’t add a lot.
From a technical perspective, the film is impressive, from the CGI through to the camera trickery and slick action sequences - unsurprising given Leterrier’s action background (The Incredible Hulk, Clash of the Titans).
But it fails to deliver on early promise due to its choppy storyline. The film devotes almost equal time to the cops and the Horsemen, which begs the question as to who we should be rooting for. Such ambiguity only distances the audience from the characters, making it hard to care what happens to them.
The bumbling nature of the cops giving chase is a bit of a running gag. But having the Horsemen so many moves ahead of their pursuers removes tension from the film. Yes, it’s magic, but some of the tricks performed are physically impossible, outside of CGI.
Much like a magic trick, Now You See Me may leave you feeling confused and bewildered, though not necessarily in a good way.