Sunday, June 2, 2013

Movie Review: "Now You See Me"

Do you believe in magic? If not, do you at least find it entertaining, or are you one of those who believes all magic is simply smoke and mirrors, or one who needs to know how every trick is achieved?

If you fall in one of the latter groups, you might not enjoy Now You See Me; but if you are the slightest bit fascinated by magic, you might enjoy this adventuresome summer romp, because it's good, twisty fun.

Four magicians—mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), cocky manipulator J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), sexy assistant-turned-headliner Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and sleight of hand artist/thief Jack Wilder (Dave Franco)—are trying to make a name for themselves on the magic circuit, with various degrees of success. And one day the four are brought together by a mystery person for an incredible set of challenges that brings them everything they've ever wanted, but they need to (try and) put their egos and other issues aside and collaborate.

One year later, the so-called "Four Horsemen" headline a show in Las Vegas bankrolled by impresario Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). And during that show, amidst all of the razzle dazzle, they pull off a pretty spectacular heist—they appear to transport a randomly selected audience member into the vault of his bank—in Paris—and proceed to rob it. While they remain onstage in Vegas. Needless to say, this trick catapults their notoriety, and brings them directly into the path of disgruntled FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and the French Interpol agent assigned to the case (Mélanie Laurent).

Who is behind the bank robbery, and each subsequent scam the Horsemen pull off? Is it Tressler, looking to capitalize on his performers' fame? Is it television personality Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who has made a name for himself by exposing magicians' tricks? Is it the magicians themselves, high on the adrenaline of the increasingly grander schemes?

Now You See It has a lot of twists and turns, and it definitely kept me guessing a lot more than I thought I would. And while some of the story's core, about an elite society of magicians, may not be tremendously interesting, what makes this movie work well is the appeal and chemistry of most of the actors. Eisenberg's usual condescending cockiness couples well with Harrelson's bravado, and Fisher provides a mischievous foil for the duo. Only Franco seems a little less polished (although fun) than the other three. Ruffalo pulls off his hangdog rumpledness with a great deal of charm, and even the will-they-or-won't-they quotient in his and Laurent's relationship is appealing. And Caine and Freeman do their usual scenery chewing with a sense of amusement.

I definitely enjoyed this movie much more than I expected I will, partially because I'm willing to let myself be manipulated, and partially because I thought the movie never tried to be anything more than it was—a fun and compelling summer movie. There's not as many explosions or car chases or fights as there are in other summer movies, but there are some, and they don't feel dialed down or predictable. In the end, the charm of Now You See Me lies in the sleight of hand that director Louis Leterrier (the Clash of the Titans remake, The Incredible Hulk, and The Transporter series) gleefully pulls off. You might not see it coming, but even if you do, you won't need to ask how it's done.

1 comment:

  1. Nice review Larry. I had a good time with it, but I would have had a better time if I believed in everything I saw.