Saturday 25 June 2022

Movie Review: Now You See Me (2013)

A lightweight crime caper, Now You See Me mixes magic and revenge-most-elaborate in a glitzy package, with frills overpowering content.

Four magicians are brought together by a mysterious benefactor for a show in Las Vegas. Illusionist Danny (Jesse Eisenberg), mentalist Merritt (Woody Harrelson), escapist Henley (Isla Fisher), and sleight-of-hand artist Jack (Dave Franco) perform as the Four Horsemen then shock their audience by seemingly stealing money from a French bank to conclude the show.

The FBI's Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) teams up with the Interpol's Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) to investigate, but they are forced to release the magicians due to lack of evidence. Dylan consults with magician debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who believes the Four Horsemen have planned multiple heists. Sure enough, at their next show in New Orleans they deliver a financial shock to their sponsor, insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), and humiliate Dylan in the process. He doggedly pursues them to try and stop further audacious criminal acts.

A none-too-serious affair, Now You See Me bounces off the energy generated by magic deployed to even the score. Director Louis Leterrier maintains rapid pacing and infuses the aesthetics with jazzy special effects and light shows. The Four Horsemen's performances are less about magic and more about throwing cinematic CGI and hair-raising stunts onto the screen, the outcome frivolous if never boring.

The script (by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt) introduces mystical elements related to a secret society of magicians established in ancient Egypt, but of course has no idea where to go with the hokum. Instead, Now You See Me plays fast and loose with logic while looking for traditional thrill rides like the big fight and the big car chase. Essential plot elements pop up purely to maximize the mindless entertainment quotient; hence, a massive safe containing untold millions is introduced out of nowhere moments before it becomes central to the climax. It's fairly easy to trace the outline of the big final twist, which, in retrospect, makes little sense.

The talented cast members add plenty of star power but are mostly pulled along by the wild antics, all the characters remaining at the sketch level while trading spiky barbs. Woody Harrelson best manages to infuse some wicked personality traits into the mentalist Merritt, while veterans Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine add weight in relatively minor roles. 

Now You See Me pulls off an old trick: dazzling with style to distract from limited substance.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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