31 May 2013

Now You See Me, but only once

Now You See Me is the latest from the director that gave us such great films like the-completely-unnecessary-remake Clash of the Titans and the-better-than-the first-but-still-not-great-The Incredible Hulk, Louis Leterrier.  It boasts a cast consisting of Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Common and Melanie Laurent (Shosana from Inglourious Basterds).  How could this be bad?

Now You See opens on four street magicians: J. Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Fisher) and Jack Wilder (Franco).  They are four different types of “magicians.”  A mysterious hooded figure watches each of their performances, and leaves them a tarot card.  When they find the card, they are summoned to a dilapidated building in New York where they discover schematics for an ultimate illusion.

Jump forward a year, and they are now calling themselves The Four Horsemen, and are about to perform in Las Vegas.  For their final stunt, they will rob a bank in France by transporting the bank owner, who happens to be in attendance, to his bank in France.  This is “done,” and the money blows into the audience members.  The FBI get the case, and Agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) is assigned to the case, and given an Interpol partner, Alma Dray (Laurent).  Of course, Dylan doesn’t believe in magic, but his partner does.  With the help of Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman) who makes a living debunking magicians and showing how their tricks are performed, Rhodes and Dray start to build a case against The Four Horsemen.

The second show takes place in The Big Easy during Mardi Gras.  The Four Horsemen give the audience money owed to them from their insurance company, that happens to be owned by The Four Horsemen’s financier Arthur Tressler (Caine).  Now, the Horsemen are on the run, but have one final trick up the sleeve.  In the meantime, Dray believes the Horsemen are trying to become members of a secret society called “The Eye.”  The Eye is the true protectors of magic.

The road to finale is riddled with twists and turns, but in the end, it does not deliver.  Now You See Me struggles with its identity.  It isn’t really a heist film. It isn’t really a magic film.  It is a subpar at best adventure ride with absolutely no repeat viewing value.  I am glad I saw it, but I will never watch this again.  It is not The Usual Suspects.  It is not The Prestige.  Now You See Me has a very funny, witty first thirty minutes, and then just slides into a comfort zone that it never leaves because it assumes that its audience is too stupid to follow the film.  The silver lining is this: I highly recommend seeing Now You See in lieu of the atrocity that is After Earth.

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