Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo
You may like this if you like: The Prestige (Christopher Nolan, 2006), Trance (Danny Boyle, 2013), Ocean’s Eleven (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)
Well, for those that have not seen the trailer: Four small time magicians; A street magician (Eisenberg), a down-on-his-luck hypnotist (Harrelson), an escape artist (Isla Fisher) and a street wise pickpocket (Dave Franco) all individually receive a mysterious card summoning them to a mysterious address. One year later they are massively popular stage illusionists by the name of The Four Horsemen. Backed by a wealthy benefactor their final trick at a sold old show in Las Vegas is to transport a member of the audience instantaneously to a Paris bank and the money seemingly instantly transported back to Vegas into the audience. I cannot say much more, but hardened FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) is sent on the case and as he investigates what follows is inevitable plot twists, red herrings, double crossings and an overall feeling of smugness from those making it as robbing the bank is just the prelude to the main trick.
The Prestige, The Illusionist err… Magicians. There have been a few films about magic in recent years and now it is over to Louis Leterrier (responsible for the first two Transporter films) to have a go. Leterrier was a wise choice as the action is slick, editing rapid and the pace always pretty frantic with some smugly delivered plot twist at every corner. Everyone is enjoying themselves from the wannabe Ocean’s style cast list (check that poster) to Leterrier obviously having a blast. This all helps to produce a very enjoyable and audaciously entertaining 115 minutes overall. This is a film that most definitely has the style, but due to both the subject matter and the style of the narrative there was always going to have to be some seriously good substance to hold it all together. This is for me what stopped Now You See Me from being more than quite simply just another entertaining but forgettable Hollywood trip.
Unfortunately Now You See Me is indeed a very forgettable experience that is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is. It certainly matches Danny Boyle’s Trance for the audacious quantity of twists and turns but the quality is never there as I found many are a lot more predictable than this film seems to believe they are. As the twists and turns continue to pile on top of each other we are left with a complete narrative mess and an inevitable anti climax of a conclusion. The actual plot is genuinely quite weak in my view and therefore not strong enough to prevent itself from collapsing under the weight of all the twists and turns. Leterrier tries his damned hardest to keep things exciting and his efforts are admirable, but he can only make up for the glaring lack of substance and genuine surprise so much. It is also hard to produce a sense of magical wonder on screen when Leterrier lets blatant CGI and editing tricks do a lot of the work, but on the whole if you try not to think too much this is tremendous empty fun.
Slick, audacious, fun and most definitely misguidedly smug; Now You See consistently entertains but often under whelms.