Film Review: (Don’t bother to see) Now You See Me

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 13th August 2013.

The makers of Now You See Me want you to believe that the film shares roots with Christopher Nolan’s brilliant The Prestige. Both feature the stage magic theme and Michael Caine in a prominent role. To strengthen the association, Morgan Freeman also co-stars with Caine in both this new feature and Nolan’s Batman trilogy. Unfortunately, Now You See Me is not even half as smart as The Prestige and the only magic trick on show is the filmmakers making money disappear from unsuspecting moviegoers wallets to see this mess.

The film initially shows promise as we are introduced to street magician Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), washed out hypnotist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), street hustler Jack Wilder (Dave Franco, brother of James) and high risk illusionist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher). Brought together by a mysterious stranger for an even more mysterious purpose, the quartet become the Four Horseman and are soon filling stadiums under the guidance of millionaire sponsor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).

For the finale of their Las Vegas show, the Four Horsemen seemingly pull off the impossible: making millions of euros disappear from a bank vault on the other side of the globe. This trick draws the attention of FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), as well as professional magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman).

The trickery behind this initial illusion is explained but ridiculously we’re left completely in the dark for all of the subsequent acts of magic. There is no “prestige” or final reveal. Instead, the storyline spins completely out of control until it crash lands with a highly unsatisfactory resolution. Three screenwriters are credited for Now You See Me. I suspect that they have never met.

Director Louis Leterrier’s previous films (Clash of the Titans, The Incredible Hulk, Transporter 2) have all favoured style over storytelling. Now You See Me proves no different. The Las Vegas and New York City locations are appealing, and the performances by the Four Horsemen are certainly glossy and elaborate, but it’s all distraction and little else.

The performances are all uniformly solid with everyone doing a lot with their thinly written characters. Jesse Eisenberg once again proves to be a watchable leading man, although I suspect he is only capable of playing himself. Isla Fisher is radiant and deserves her place as one of the most in demand actresses working today. Mark Ruffalo is charismatic and on a rise after his turn in The Avengers. And Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman once again play Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, respectively.

Despite a trailer that promises so much, Now You See Me doesn’t deliver. It’s the cinema equivalent of asking someone to pick a card, any card and then walking away with no explanation.


Published in: on September 11, 2013 at 00:05  Leave a Comment  
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