Release date: 8th August 2013
Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Melanie Laurent, Common
Review by Peter Gray
Without holding his ‘Clash of the Titans’ credit against him, I was particularly excited for Louis Leterrier’s flashy bank robbing magicians caper ‘Now You See Me’. I happened to think he handled directing duties on ‘The Incredible Hulk’ rather well, and I’m a sucker for the Jason Statham action series ‘The Transporter’ (in which Leterrier directed the second outing), so placing him behind the camera with a stellar all-star cast to work with, I was expecting at least a little bit of fun.
As ‘Now You See Me’ wound up I sat there content as it delivered beyond its promise, with ample flash and a tone that wasn’t taking itself too seriously this little caper proved to be the epitome of popcorn entertainment. Of course if you think about it with deep intent you’ll see the mirrors behind the smoke but much like the magic tricks the film highlights, the enjoyment comes from the show not the aftermath. The show, as it would be, tells of four magicians all experts in their own individual craft; J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), an egotistical street magician, mentalist Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), an escape artist, and wily thief/performer Jack Wilder (Dave Franco). After an initial meeting with all of them we see a mysterious benefactor watch over each of their performances, ultimately bringing them together under shadowy circumstances where they form a group –The Four Horsemen. Under this name they perform sell-out shows around the world and their latest venture, in Vegas of course, sees them seemingly rob a bank in Paris whilst performing on stage. It’s a mighty feat but one that seems to of worked, so much so that the FBI get called in to investigate and famous magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) lends support to determine whether or not the Horsemen are thieves, and just how magic they really are.
It’s a ridiculous premise, but it seems to work, thanks in large part to the gathering ensemble. As much as the Four Horsemen are the prime focus, it may come as a surprise that they are more support players here with Mark Ruffalo as the cynical FBI Agent Rhodes proving to be the main attraction. Although his character is quite the stereotypical agent (stubble, rumpled shirt, loosened tie, constantly having situations explained to him), Ruffalo is a charming presence so he comes across as a much more likeable character than he should. It makes sense as to why he does have everything explained to him though as it allows proceedings to unfold in such a way that the unbelievable tricks of the Horsemen are clarified in all their revealing glory. As the aforementioned Horsemen Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco are all clearly having a good time and their perfectly in-tune with their magic personas; it doesn’t seem like too big a stretch for Eisenberg to play the cocky fast-talker, Harrelson slightly sleazy, Franco as a young buck with something to prove, and Fisher wanting to be more than just eye candy. Michael Caine is also thrown in for good measure, and though his role isn’t overly creative, there’s still enough of a twinkle in his eye that you know he isn’t just phoning it in.
Whilst it perhaps would’ve been slightly more fun to spend further time with the robbers than the cops, this classy caper never overstays its welcome even if it does somewhat veer towards mediocrity in its final moments. Like a full blown stage production ‘Now You See Me’ is all fun and flash on the surface, and that’s where it is best to stay as searching underneath for the truth would just ruin the entertaining illusion.
My rating 3.5/5 (Now you see this)