A magical heist comes up a bit short of greatness
Loves: Magic, heist movies, team-ups
Likes: The main cast, mysteries
Dislikes: Plot holes
Hates: Weak endings
So, if you bring together actors like Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman in a team-up heist film focused on magicians, audiences would have to watch the film with their mouths open in order to not have their heads' explode from the awesomeness. And that's sort of what happens for most of Now You See Me, which has a lot of fun with the idea of a team of magicians using their abilities to commit a string of crimes that benefit others. With Eisenberg as Daniel, the close-up expert, Harrelson as Merritt the mentalist, Isla Fisher playing Henley the escape artist and Dave Franco as street-magician Jack, the crew, known as "The Four Horsemen," is great to watch interact and perform their magic, funded by multi-millionaire Arthur Tressler (Caine.) Their high-stakes exploits draw the attention of Dylan (Ruffalo) and Alma (Melanie Laurent), an odd-couple team of investigators, and Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman) a mythbusting former magician.
As Dylan and Bradley both strive to get to the bottom of the Horsemen's Robin Hood-like tricks, it becomes clear that there's another force behind the team of illusionists, someone the group doesn't even know, Like with any heist film, as the authorities get closer and the heists get bigger, the fun increases, and that's just the case here, with the core four all doing a fine job with their roles, including Franco, who has no problem keeping up with his high-powered castmates, especially the traditionally wonderful Harrelson. The only person who doesn't really impress is Laurent, who has the thankless job of playing Mulder to Ruffalo's Scully as a willing believer in magic. In fact, the entire storyline between Dylan and Alma is pretty much superfluous to the overall film, and seems added only to add a Hollywood romance to the package. Removing this character and her connection to Dylan would have streamlined the plot and made for a shorter and improved film.
I've seen the end of this movie referred to as a twist ending, usually in a negative way related to M. Night Shyalamalan, the patron saint of twist endings. The thing is, this is a mystery story, and you're not supposed to know whodunnit, so if it's not a"twist" ending, then what was the point? The real problem is, it's hard to care about a character when your true understanding of them is only a few minutes long when you find out they were responsible. If the impact of the entire film is tied to whether you care about a character's motivations, you better make sure the audience has bought in. That just didn't happen here. That the movie then takes a pretty odd leap in an awkward direction doesn't help save it from spinning off its axis.
The ending of Now You See Me may be a disappointment, but this set offered a chance to salvage that problem in the form of an extended version of the film, which runs 10 minutes longer. However this is just a longer version of the film, not really an altered version, putting in some additional lines and takes in a few spots, including an amusing confrontation between Bradley and the Four Horsemen, as well as an additional scene at the end. Nothing about it is really worth the effort of watching again to spot the differences however.
The DTS-HD Master 7.1 track is as impactful as the film's visuals, offering blasts from the epic musical score by the criminally-underrated Brian Tyler, enveloping atmospherics and impressively-placed dialogue, in a dynamic mix that puts you in the middle of the action, especially during the film's big action set-pieces. The tracks handles everything big and small with grace, creating a wonderful experience overall, free of any distortion or issues.
The next big extra is a nearly 32-minute pile of deleted scenes (16 in all), none of which were included in the extended version of the film. There's a bunch of interesting moments here, including a slightly different open and some moments with characters that didn't make it into the final film. The scenes that are definitely worth a look are some alternate final scenes that would have been far better than what was used as the actual ending of the movie, potentially giving the audience more satisfaction about the ending. Several of the scenes are intrinsically tied to the plot's resolution, so to describe them would be tantamount to a spoiler.
A pair of featurettes are also included, starting with "Now You See Me Revealed" (15:38), an overview of the film told rapid-fire via interviews with cast and crew (though Laterrier is M.I.A.) It's a tad surface, hitting on basically everything, including the portrayal of magic in the film and having Caine and Freeman together, and as a result, it's not especially informative. "A Brief History of Magic" (11:52), exclusive to Blu-ray and hosted by David Kwong, one of the film's magic consultants, offers a bit more of a lesson by covering the art's history and biggest names, structured to match the specializations of the film's four leads. "Brief" is no understatement, as many of the modern masters are ignored, in favor of magic's forefathers.
Wrapping things up are the film's teaser and theatrical trailers, along with several other Lionsgate promos, a DVD copy of the film and a code for a digital copy and Ultraviolet stream and download.
The Bottom Line