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Movie Review: 'Now You See Me'

Now You See Me

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco.

Directed by Louis Leterrier

Rated R



Every year at about this time we tend to visit the local cinema more often than during the winter due to the plethora of summer blockbuster movies.  These usually consist of the obligatory multi--sequels, prequel, reboots, re-imagined and repeats.  The last time a movie about magic, magicians and illusionists was released during the peak summer season happened back in 2006 with the appropriately entitled The Illusionist.  It was a period piece and was well received critically if not financially.  It didn’t contain a zillion dollars worth of special effects, it just entertained on a more provocative level.  Those types of movies are becoming harder to find at the Cineplex.  Enter Summit Entertainment’s Now You See Me.  The film’s producers gave the green light to sign up a killer cast of Hollywood super stars in the hope that audiences would appreciate something other than comic-book heroes or badly made science fiction.  It is a fun action thriller with some of your favorite actors, even if you don’t get to fully invest in any of them.  There aren’t any plot holes to speak of and as you get closer to the final reveal you’ll find yourself wondering who or what “master trickster” was controlling all the characters like marionettes.  Extra credit goes to those who correctly guess the ending because the film’s intentional message is that you can’t always believe what you just saw.

The film is directed by Louis Leterrier (The Transporter) from a script by a writing group consisting of Ed Solomon (Men in Black), Boaz Yakin (Safe) and Edward Ricourt.  The film’s premise is unique and offers an alternative to make-believe superheroes, but the film’s real drawing card is in its all-star cast that includes; Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco.  


The film opens on the cocky Atlas (Eisenberg) and then quickly introduces scamster Merritt (Harrelson), escape artist Henley (Fisher) and pickpocket Jack (Franco).  They all receive an invitation to meet in New York by an unknown person or persons under the offer to join forces for a greater cause.  When we next see them they are on a Las Vegas stage set to perform the opening act of their crime spree in front of a sold out show.  They announce to the roaring crowd that they intend to rob a French bank right in front of everyone’s eyes.

The audience is then treated to a razzle-dazzle display that involves a randomly chosen spectator, futuristic looking headgear and transportation to his bank in Paris, France.  Abracadabra and presto, millions of dollars appear to be whisked from the bank’s vault and rain down upon the rapturous crowd.  It is within this crowd that we first meet the group’s financial backer, Tressler (Caine) and a former illusionist turned magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman). 

Of course the nature of the show’s fantastic finish beckons the obligatory response from law enforcement and specifically the FBI.  In comes agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) who along with an Interpol liaison, Officer Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent).   The film follows this pair as they meet up with Thaddeus who gives them (and us) a crash course in magic and the horsemen’s next show stop.

The story doesn’t have much down time as it whisks us from Vegas to New Orleans to Queens, New York.   The action is fast paced, the dialogue witty and the whiz-bang visuals adequate enough to keep our attention for the almost two hour long story.  It is needed though because like any good magic trick, those are intended to distract you from the film's lesser satisfying fact that there is little character development beyond the beginning set-up.  We don’t really get to know the four horsemen beyond a few of them know each other from the past and they totally believe that the payoff for what they’re doing will be worth the risks involved to get there. 

You’ll find yourself contemplating possible outcomes which may be rooting for Agent Rhodes to stay sober enough to put the pieces together, or it may be for the band of merry robbers who prove themselves to be more than common thiefs.  As with any movie that wants to use magic as its core theme, the trick really isn’t about getting us to care much about the wielders of the sorcery, the trick is to get us to suspend our beliefs in what is before our eyes.  Actually, isn’t that really what all movies are about? 

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