I didn’t have any huge expectations for this one. I saw the trailers and they looked fine. If anything, it would be a lighthearted, breezy caper. Director Louis Leterrier isn’t my favorite filmmaker, but I did enjoy his INCREDIBLE HULK 5 years ago, so this had some promise.
The movie follows 4 magicians who are a hit in Las Vegas. They are called The Four Horsemen. They consist of “slight of hand” master Jesse Eisenberg (not even going to mention their character names here, cause it’s pretty much irrelevant), escape artist Ilsa Fisher, Con man Dave Franco, and Hypnotist Woody Harrelson. Together, they rob people who deserve it. Like insurance companies and things like that. And then give the money to people who really need it, like New Orleans Hurricane victims. And when they rob them, they do it during their shows, in front of thousands of fans. But since it is a crime, an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) and an Interpol agent (the lovely Melanie Laurent) are put on the case. Also in the mix is a man who likes to expose magicians’ tricks (Morgan Freeman) and a wealthy dude who finances the Four Horsemen (Michael Caine). The agents find out something too. That the magicians may possibly be working for a secret society of magicians known as The Eye. What does it all mean?
The movie opens with a fun, energetic pre-title sequence that introduces us to the 4 magicians. It was a good way to start the picture. The magic in this movie isn’t very convincing, but I don’t think it was supposed to be. This is meant to be popcorn entertainment, so check your brain at the door. The magic tricks are pretty fun (if far-fetched) that involve time travel, people floating around in bubbles, and people turning into dollar bills. I do kind of wish that there were some actual real tricks in this movie, instead of some obvious CGI effects, but what are you gonna do? The movie just starts off with a very fast pace, and had an almost infectious energy going for it. I love an early scene that had the magicians being interrogating by Ruffalo.
All of the characters are likable, and that’s mainly due to the actors, who are clearly having a ball. Okay, so Jesse Eisenberg’s hair looks like shit, but his manic, neurotic performance is perfect for this type of flick. Woody Harrelson continues to play likable assholes and is quite funny here. Ilsa Fisher is fine, but doesn’t do a whole lot other than strutting her stuff around. She didn’t come across as being that bright either. Dave Franco looks like a pud. He’s fine I guess, but he doesn’t look like a real person, but a manufactured pretty boy from the Hollywood factory. The other cast members are fantastic! Mark Ruffalo shines as the FBI guy on the case. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are doing their usual thing, and that’s okay by me. I also really liked Melanie Laurent (INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS) as the Interpol agent. She is just so beautiful that I just kind of gushed every time she spoke with that French accent.
So, we have a fun cast and a neat premise. But about halfway through the movie, I found myself wondering WHY everything was happening. Why were the Four Horsemen robbing these people? What was THEIR motivation? Were they doing it for the purpose of good? None of this was really clear to me. Another problem was that the focal point of the movie shifts halfway through. At first, the movie is seen through the eyes of the 4 magicians, but then in the second half, they mostly disappear while the focus is switched to Ruffalo’s character. This was a little confusing for me. Who were we supposed to be rooting for? I wasn’t sure. That became a problem for me.
Leterrier does do a great job keeping the pace fast. The flick goes by really quick, and it’s almost 2 hours! So, good job there! He also employs some impressive steadicam work that zooms around the actors, sometimes in unbroken takes. I always like when filmmakers do something other than the ordinary type of filmmaking. The script isn’t perfect. There are so many holes the more you think about it. Character motivations don’t make sense, and when a big twist is revealed at the end, even though it was cool, doesn’t really gel. The dialogue is full of some quick quips and one-liners that the actors say with relish. And the score by Brian Tyler only adds to the fun, energetic spirit.
This is a watchable film that tries to capture the fun vibe that OCEAN’S ELEVEN had. It doesn’t quite achieve that. I would say that NOW YOU SEE ME is the White Castle version of OCEAN’S. It’s fun while it lasts, but doesn’t add up to a whole lot. I do think audiences may really like this one. Sometimes, people want mindless entertainment. But in my opinion, since this movie is about magic, it should have been a lot smarter. It’s got some fun performances and some of the tricks are neat, but I wish I got to know at least one of the characters well enough to care about what the outcome was. If you like mindless entertainment, I would recommend FAST & FURIOUS 6. If you want a smart movie about magic, check out the Documentary DECEPTIVE PRACTICE: THE MYSTERIES AND MENTORS OF RICKY JAY. Those are REAL tricks in that movie. The greatest trick in this movie is that it kind of fools you into thinking its a good movie. It’s not, though it wasn’t far away from being good. It does have it’s moments, but not enough for me to fully recommend it. ★★1/2 (out of ★★★★)
– Rated PG-13 for language, some action and sexual content.
– Running time: 1hr 55min.