When you go to see a film like 'Now You See Me’, you expect to be entertained. Not only was I entertained, the film bamboozled, twisted, and turned me around. If you like movies that have magic, money and a the elements of mystery, then "Now You See Me" may be for you. I have to warn you though, when watching this film, your mind will be going in a million directions at once trying to figure out not only how these guys pull off their "magic" tricks, but also more importantly what is really going on. The plot revolves around a group of four street magicians that band together to pull off amazing bank robberies while on stage in Vegas, New Orleans, and New York. The four magicians are J. Daniel Atlas played by "The Social Network's" Jesse Eisenberg, former cast mate from "Zombieland," Woody Harrelson as mentalist Merritt McKinney. Isla Fisher from this year's "The Great Gatsby" plays escape artist Henley Reeves, and rounding out the group known as The Four Horseman is Dave Franco as pickpocket, lock picker, and card magician Jack Wilder. Mark Ruffalo (“Avengers”) stars as F.B.I. agent Dylan Rhodes who leads up the investigation on these modern day Robin Hoods. You see, they don't keep the money; they give it to the people in the audience. "Now You See Me" is directed by Louis Leterrier, whose previous films include 2002's “The Transporter,” “Transporter 2” in 2005, “The Incredible Hulk” starring Edward Norton, and 2010's “Clash of the Titans.” Working from a story by Edward Ricourt and a script by Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin ("Remember The Titans") will give your mind a run for your money and still leave you dazzled. "Now You See Me" runs just short of 2 hours and is rated PG-13.
Louis Leterrier starts his story very quickly and the pace refuses to slow down throughout the film. We meet our Four Horseman as they work their acts individually. A hooded man watches each act as they perform around the town. Atlas (Eisenberg) does your typical pick a card any card and with a bit of magic displays the chosen card illuminated on the side of a New York skyscraper. McKinney (Harrelson) the mentalist hypnotizes a woman and while she is hypnotized, he deduces or reads her husband's mind about an affair he had at one time and proceeds to shake him down for some hush money. Escape artist Henley (Fisher) does a variation of the water tank full of piranha illusion, and with Wilder, we find that he uses his gift of distraction to pickpocket his marks. The group assembles for a meeting called together by an unknown mastermind (presumably the hooded man) to pull off some of the greatest heists in world history.
I mentioned some of the characters at the beginning, however, after the first fantastical bank robbery (I won't go into details -- that would ruin it) FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) is called to the scene to investigate the robbery. The robbery took place in France and so therefore, Interpol was brought in to help in the investigation. Enter the lovely French actress Mélanie Laurent as Detective Alma Dray. After some hilarious interrogations with the Four Horseman, they are released because they don't have the money, and there is no proof that they actually pull off the alleged robbery with magic. In other words, the F.B.I. has no evidence. Now back out on the streets, the mayhem starts a new. The focus shifts to Rhodes and Dray, along with some weird chemistry going on between the two. The real acting that takes place in this film is actually between these two. They play out more as the typical characters in cop buddy films, not because of their opposite genders, but more in their mindsets. Dray, the more open to magic and wonder, wants to understand these criminals, whereas Rhodes is scruffy and ill-tempered and just wants to make this crime go away. When Dray asks why he doesn't care how these guys are pulling off these robberies, his only concern is fighting against the injustice of the world and making sure that justice does right by the good guys, or something like that.
There is always someone around who likes to be the know it all, the guy who debunks the magicians. In real life, there is James Randi, in the film, there is Thaddeus Bradley played by Morgan Freeman ("Oblivion"). His gig is making money by selling DVDs about the magicians and scam artists he demystifies. The way Freeman plays Bradley; you know for sure he is involved in the robberies somehow. As a former magician himself, he would know how magicians perform these illusions. When Rhodes and sidekick Agent Fuller, played by Michael Kelly ("The Adjustment Bureau "), request Bradley's help, Bradley gives the two agents the most evasive, and condescending answers in the book. In other words, he is an ass. The benefactor of the Four Horsemen is Insurance Company magnate, the very wealthy Arthur Tressler played by Michael Caine ("The Dark Knight"). Ah ha, he must behind the bank robberies, but then we find that Tressler and Bradley are at odds, so which is one is behind the robberies.
One of the tenants of a good mystery is having good minor characters. As it turns out, Eisenberg, Fisher, Harrelson, and Franco are mere distractions. For all the posing, action, and hijinks that take place around them, they are but a slight of hand. They are there to show that there is nothing up their metaphorical sleeves, and yet the story happens off to the side and that is where one may start having problems with the story. The best mystery that I have seen and enjoyed tend to feed subtle clues, cleverly throughout the film, leading the viewer to stay up with the story and invites the viewer to make reasonable deductions as to the solution of the mystery. "Now You See Me" robs us of that ability. Leterrier is so focused on the misdirection that any clues given are so obvious that they are not clues at all but red herrings at best.
Good magicians never reveal their secrets, and Leterrier does. Yes, we know that all effects are done with the movie magic equivalent called CGI and in camera effects, however, by the end of the film, one may find one feeling a bit duped when it comes to the mystery aspect of the film. Don't get me wrong "Now You See Me" is a fun romp that had me thinking all the way through the film, but at the end when all was revealed, and as the film's tag line says "Come in close, because the more you think you see, the easier it'll be to fool you.” With everything exposed at the end, there is very little for me to think about after the film and I am left a bit empty inside.
Look for "Now You See Me" on May 31, 2013.
Staring: Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman
Director: Louis Leterrier
Producer(s): Bobby Cohen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci
Writer: Boaz Yakin, Ed Solomon
All images courtesy of Summit Entertainment