Hints at memorable illusion
Last weekend brought a welcome respite from the typical summer blockbuster fare. Not just one, but two original films arrived that were neither a sequel nor involved characters running around in capes, tights, or suits made of iron.
One of the two, “Now You See Me” is a fun magician-based heist film that features a terrific cast and an energetic, promising trailer. To fully enjoy it however, a tweaking of the film’s marketing slogan is appropriate: “If you look too close, you won’t get the answers you’re seeking.”
The journey is a fast-paced joyride with a perplexing final act that still might satisfy most audiences.
The opening moments offer breezy teases of what’s to come, as a team of various street magicians and illusionists is assembled by a mystery mastermind and made into an all-star team called “The Four Horsemen.” Isla Fisher, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco rehearse quietly for a year before performing their incredible deception before a delighted Las Vegas audience.
These early scenes are clearly reminiscent of “Ocean’s 11” film franchise (especially the first installment, which is better written and constructed in every way), but features some terrific sleight-of-hand and onstage illusions that might give David Copperfield some ideas.
Where the film begins to slide off track is when it awkwardly attempts to combine the efforts of the assigned FBI agents (Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent – both excellent), the rather fuzzy involvement of a financier (Michael Caine), and a successful trade secret debunker (Morgan Freeman). Character development and any explanation of the film’s own convoluted elements evaporate rapidly, while we’ll kindly consider the plot holes as simply unexplained red herrings.
Surely the fun of any illusion does not require full disclosure, so the flaws of “Now You See Me” may not be fatal to all movie fans. There’s enough busy, cluttered style here to provide entertaining misdirection for most.
If you see only a handful of movies a year you’ll probably love it. If you see one every weekend, you’re going to demand smarter illusions than this film can muster.
Rated PG-13 for language, some action and sexual content.