Even The Masked Magician couldn’t make complete sense of Now You See Me. In various areas of the United States, four unique but separate magicians in illusionist Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), mentalist Merritt McKinley (Woody Harrelson), escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and sleight-of-hand con artist Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) make a living off of their skills.
Their skills lead each of them to be recruited by some unknown entity. One year later, the individuals have formed to become the Four Horsemen, selling out arenas and putting on grandiose shows in Las Vegas. All is well and good until the group pulls off the unthinkable by robbing an actual bank in Paris and no one knowing how they’ve accomplished doing so. Magic? Actual real methods? It is up to FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) to figure this out.
Magic can be cool to look at. But once it is boiled down to its core elements, there isn’t all that much there. This is, in my opinion, a good description of Now You See Me. Some cool stuff on the surface, but as more becomes revealed, little is of substance.
Louis Leterrier holds the magic directorial wand here, and technically, it doesn’t look that bad. The large scale matters like the heist and chase scenes have a nice flow to them. Since we’re dealing with magicians, we’re always looking at these moments with a tighter eye than usual, just to see if we can catch what the magicians are up to. Some of the more smaller scaled bits like throwing cards or floating in a bubble look cheaper than anticipated,. Even with the script problems (and there are a litany of them), the pace never really slows to a crawl, which is a good thing.
But as stated, there are a litany of script problems that even the best director likely wouldn’t be able to overcome. While the pace never slows, it is rushed at times. After a wonderful setup that introduces the audience to all four magicians, they are immediately thrown together faster than you could say Abracadabra. Their robbery is amazing to watch, but I’d argue it is also the climax at only a third of the way through. This rushing plagues the four characters throughout; simply, there’s little, if anything, that becomes known of them. It is somewhat sad, too, because The Four Horsemen actors (and actress) are good. Not amazing, but good and fun to watch, especially Harrelson and Eisenberg, It would have been nice to have a reason to care about why they’re doing what they’re doing, but there isn’t a reason, and they all end up feeling like disposable vessels for their mission.
However, the thin character writing isn’t the worst offense. The worst offense is easily the much maligned 3rd act, specifically the ending. The ending is the type of ending that one could try to the end of time to make sense of, and will likely never be able to. Somehow, it is both stupidly bad and just flat out laughable in its reveal, how it is shot, how the actors look, and all that came before it to lead up to the moment. Hey, at least it’ll be remembered, right?
To top all of that off, there’s a requisite love story that does little for yours truly. Taken on their own, the two roles are fine, but their relationship that is present between the two characters feels extremely shoehorned in. Ruffalo’s been better, but he’s still entertaining here, even if he’s overdoing it a little at times. Mélanie Laurent is steady, just underwritten. Michael Caine is Sir Michael Caine, and Morgan Freeman does the old sage role as well as anyone at this point in film.
“The more you look, the less you see.” With Now You See Me, it is more along the lines of “The more you watch, the less it’ll make sense.” Watch with that mindset, and the magic that the film does possess in places can be a little captivating.
Photo credits go to screenrant.com, moviepilot.com, and thetalkiespodcast.com.
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