Now You See Me ReviewJune 7, 2013
As preposterous and stylized as it may be, Now You See Me is still an entertaining magic flick.
As I noted in my review for The Incredible Burt Wonderstone a couple of months ago, films about magicians seem to be an interesting topic for Hollywood these days. Especially in a film industry defined by visual dazzle and technical wizardry, the motif is more relevant in entertainment than ever. In Now You See Me, we have a story involving heists that are organized and executed through the usage of illusions. From the director of The Incredible Hulk and involving a star-studded cast, is this a caper flick that will turn the crime genre on its head?
The Four Horsemen are the latest group of illusionists to take the scene in Las Vegas – Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is the standard trickster, Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) is an escape artist, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is the mentalist, and then Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is an up and coming magician. They were brought together by a mysterious benefactor, and a year later they present a brand new, one-of-a-kind show sponsored by Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). During the show, they invite an audience member to rob a bank in Paris, resulting in millions of dollars flying into the stage. From there, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), Interpol agent Alma Vargas (Melanie Laurent) and ex-magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) all partner together to take down the Four Horsemen before they can do it again.
Now You See Me certainly had an intriguing premise to me, and although the setup is taken in many interesting directions, this film is not that great. The problem with all of those different plot points in the narrative is that they all lead up to a singular twist in the end akin to The Prestige – incidentally another film about magic – and it’s a shame that this twist makes the rest of the story seem sort of confusing. Other than that, Now You See Me is held back by its preposterous, and often silly plot points. Also, it’s tough to find one side to truly root for since the story spends time on both sides of the conflict. I do feel that it did work on another level though, for Now You See Me has fun characters all around, even if those characters were not well-developed. So despite the story’s silliness, it remains engaging due to those characters, rendering Now You See Me an enjoyable, although somewhat lacking experience. With those fun characters, some good action sequences, solid dialogue – especially in the film’s magic acts – there is certainly fun to be had here. There isn’t much behind this seemingly heavy-plotted magic act, but even so Now You See Me has entertainment value to be sure.
Much like The Avengers, this is a film that succeeds largely because of its cast, if only somewhat so. The reason why I make that comparison is because that film required a team to work well together on screen and within the context of the story, and The Avengers was a massive success in that regard. Now You See Me also benefits from the camaraderie between Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco since they all have their specific talents and personality traits that bounce off each other. They also deliver their lines quite smoothly, and it was simply fun to see them act together on screen. Mark Ruffalo was also great in his role, for he stole virtually every scene he was in, bringing the same level of gravitas and smoothness that he surprised audiences with in The Avengers. Melanie Laurent has good chemistry with him as well, while Oscar-winners Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman provide some great moments in Now You See Me.
For a film built upon style, that style is necessary to make up for the lack of narrative substance thereof. Some of the visuals in Now You See Me are somewhat cheesy; for example, in one scene a character flies through the air in an enormous bubble, and the style is also harmed at times by excessive shaky cam cinematography and quick cuts. However, the style of this film is still strong enough to add to the entertainment value. Now You See Me isn’t cinematic magic, but this is still a crisply-shot film nonetheless, and a fun one to behold t0o – especially during the three magic acts the Four Horsemen put on. As for the music, Brian Tyler’s score is serviceable enough, but it does not add much to the picture.
Now You See Me is not the best film you can see this summer. If you want to see a truly memorable film about magic that will keep you thinking for days afterward, go watch The Prestige. Still, Now You See Me is an enjoyable summer experience that will excite, entertain and engage your senses, even if it is forgettable. I wish I could say that this is the sort of crime thriller that will stimulate your mind, but ultimately it will just leave you slightly confused. Even so, if you have the desire to grab some friends, eat some popcorn and watch an entertaining film, Now You See Me will do the job.