Now You See Me

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Release: Friday, May 31, 2013

[Theater]

I’m sorry, but director Louis Leterrier simply shot himself in the foot when he didn’t have to here. He’s crafted a thoroughly entertaining film that is in equal doses gleefully deceptive and smartly funny. The main cast truly has the time of their lives playing four wunderkind illusionists: J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are given terrific parts and are without a doubt collectively a good enough reason to give Now You See Me a try. However, M. Night Shyamalan may as well have been directing this with the unconscionable twist that occurs in the final act.

Consider that more of a caution flag than a spoiler, though. While some films are best enjoyed when you go in without any substantial knowledge about what’s going to be happening, here’s a case where the potential for enjoyment could be maximized if you are at least warned beforehand. Now You See Me is a film that likes to take the scenic route to the conclusion — whether or not you are satisfied with the ending is beside the point at this juncture. The point is, however, that you should try to enjoy the ride while you can.

The build-up of anticipation and drama, (most of) the dialogue and the kinetic spirit amongst the characters is absolutely fantastic. The film in a very general sense is a whole mess of fun, and it’s nice to see Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman back in a movie where they are playing opposite one another, and in slightly less favorable roles.

Now You See Me begins with, yes, a magic trick. Eisenberg’s overly confident Daniel Atlas is showing off some sleight of hand card tricks for his vastly female audience, and you guessed it — this works like a charm on a few. Meanwhile, Isla Fisher is the alluring stage presence otherwise known as Henley and she’s really good at getting out of ‘fishy’ situations. . .(when you see this film you’ll realize how corny that line is). Then the camera swings around again to introduce us to two more brilliant performers. Woody Harrelson is what is known as a mentalist, and is perhaps the funniest of them all. Franco rounds out the ‘Four Horsemen’ as Jack, who seems to be more of a professional pick-pocketer and con artist than a magician. Alas, we have four very different acts who are one day randomly brought together when they each receive a calling card of some kind, with the same address printed on the back of all four cards. They unite in front of an apartment door, and, following some bickering thanks to their overblown egos, discover the apartment to be more or less abandoned.

From here on out they’ll be known as this Four Horsemen act, touring the country and performing to large audiences some of the most inventive and crowd-pleasing tricks ever attempted. They pull off a bank heist in France from the comforts of their Las Vegas stage and shower the audience in millions of stolen bills (I wonder if they would have been pissed knowing all of that was just in Euros?); they successfully strip a high-profile millionaire of most of his riches in front of his own eyes during another gig in New Orleans; and they create quite a commotion in the climactic scenes in New York City.

The long-distance bank robbery attracts the attention of the authorities, of course. Detective Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is a cranky law enforcer bent on capturing the magicians who have just crossed the line into criminal status. With the (read: unwanted) help of Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) they must stop the Four Horsemen at all costs, lest they all be made fools of by a group of stage performers.

This game of cat-and-mouse endures for the remainder of the film, and although there’s nothing special about the chase itself, the notion of cops going after these evasive magicians/illusionists/robbers….whatever the hell you want to call them — is very compelling and somewhat original. (There are more than a few comparisons one can make to Ocean’s Eleven, or even The Italian Job, but make no mistake, this is far less realistic a caper than either of those were.)

Where the movie simply falls apart is in the reveal of one particular character. I am not going to be as nasty as some have been and dismiss the movie any earlier, but the film quite literally collapses in one five or ten-second shot. It’s not only disappointing, but perversely cliched.

And damn it if I haven’t gone completely cynical by now and hold little to no hope for the type of film Now You See Me is modeled after: the mystery that likes to unravel until the very last second, where it becomes more and more obvious that even the characters involved don’t seem to know how they are going to wrap things up effectively. You can’t call this movie a cash-grab, but it’s closer to being one thanks to how quickly the third act turns to old, familiar territory. To be very cheesy yet again, the final magic act feels like a cop-out. Whoops. Whoa, that play on words is actually a little more revealing than I meant for it to be. (If you don’t see this movie, maybe that reference also will remain more vague…)

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3-0Recommendation: I feel as though I may have covered this part sufficiently in the above review. But, in case it’s not clear already ….. this film is worth checking out, but beware of the twist. (Again, it’s remarkable how Shyamalan-y it feels to have this element in here.) The acting is great, the characters all likable (for the most part) and there’s plenty of action and brain involvement to ensure you don’t nod off in one of the magic acts. That said, I could totally see a release of this movie on DVD coming with an alternative ending featurette or something. . . .

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 116 mins.

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Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com 

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8 thoughts on “Now You See Me

  1. I enjoyed the movie. It’s not the best but it’s also not the worst movie i’ve seen this year. After Earth has that honor followed by The Last Exorcism 2. I actually just reviewed that one. I’m trying to force myself to do After Earth…

  2. Pingback: DVD Court: ‘Now You See Me’, ‘The Ice Man’ | The Cinematic Katzenjammer

  3. Tom that is it, I am waiting for this to be available for streaming. The reviews seem to run from just ok to F’ing terrible for this film. But now what should I go see? Maybe After Earth 😉

    • Yeah, but maybe some reviews outt here are being a bit harsh. Lol Mark did have a good point. My comparisons to an M. Night twist was a bit of a stretch hahaha. I just hate hate hate when a movie does something like that to me. So you should keep in mind that the movie is really quite good, it’s perpetually interesting (until it hits a roadblock). Nothing magical from there on out. It almost felt as if the movie had two separate distinct parts, other than the standard, you know.,…3-act development.

      As far as After Earth…now…that has been looking terrible.

  4. You’re right the story doesn’t hold up through the explanation at the end. However the trip getting there was a lot of fun. I’d probably give this a 6/8 on your scale. You sound about the same. Or at least a 5 the 4 sounds like a thumbs down in my book. Nicely written review anyway. I agree with what you said. It just didn’t bother me.

    • You might be right there Mark, I mean the twist was annoying but its probably not enough to average out the whole experience to middle-of-the-road status, which is kind of how I have it currently…. Usually a 4/8 indicates a film I will never love but can’t dismiss as a failure, and this film is certainly a cut above that. Consider yourself the first outside influence on my rating scale haha.

  5. Good review Tom. Sure, it had it’s moments of fun and charm, but overall, still felt like it was trying to cheat us out a bit more than it should have.

    • Definitely man, and that upset me. 80% of this film is really cool and they screw it all up eventually hahaha. It really shouldn’t have tried to cheat us at all. But like you pointed out very cleverly, it’s got our money in it’s pockets now, so why should the film care? haha thanks for stopping by

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