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Now You See Me

Summit Entertainment // PG-13 // May 31, 2013
List Price: Unknown [Buy now and save at Fandango]

Review by Jeff Nelson | posted May 31, 2013 | E-mail the Author

The act of performing magic tricks has become a hobby for countless people around the world. However, we all know that these are simply illusions that are meant to trick the mind into believing that it's real. It has transformed itself into an entire entertainment empire, as it's performed around the globe. The astonishment on one's face after viewing a shocking magic trick is what makes it so enchanting. With The Incredible Burt Wonderstone being released in March, the studios are trying to cash in on this industry. In Louis Leterrier's Now You See Me, he's aiming to create an exciting crime thriller that will leave viewers with the same shock as one has after an unbelievable illusion. However, it doesn't take an expert magician to see through the deceptions in order to predict nearly every twist and turn in this motion picture.

J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Herrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are solo acts that will ultimately cross paths. They create a magic act in which they are called the "Four Horsemen." At a show in Las Vegas, the group manages to rob a bank in France during their performance. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol detective Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) have difficulty charging them for anything in specific. However, they continue to chase the act as they move from one location to another as they hope to arrest them if they make any mistakes. Rhodes and Dray must find a way to arrest the group before they're able to enact more crimes on a global scale.

Before any of the big crimes take place, the group must get together. The beginning of the picture focuses on introducing each magician and bringing them all together. They each possess a unique skill set, which is why they have been chosen to enact this particular plan. While we meet each character, we're able to witness how each one uses their talent. Some are meant to impress, while others are utilized to make a joke. The latter is primarily true when it comes to Merritt McKinney's "mind-reading" abilities. Keep in mind that there's a fair amount of cheese to be found throughout this motion picture. Fortunately, the majority of the humor fits. Most of it feels necessary for the given atmosphere, which leaves only a few gags that come across as being slightly forced. Between Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt the screenplay features quite a bit of disjointed dialogue, which makes the film feel awkward at times. While this crime thriller does pick itself back up every now and then, it doesn't make up for the amount of times that it falls. This screenplay fails to deliver the flair that the "Four Horsemen" seem to enchant on each city they visit.

From a glance, one would imagine that Now You See Me would take place from the magicians' perspectives. However, the narrative is primarily told from FBI agent Rhodes' point-of-view. This ultimately transforms into a cat-and-mouse dynamic, which feels all too familiar. Instead of focusing on the case, the filmmakers could have created a much more interesting feature by following the "Four Horsemen." Since we're following Rhodes as he tries to capture these magicians, the film tries way too hard to be unpredictable. A conscious effort has been made to hide the twists as much as possible, which only made the final product even more predictable. In fact, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is primarily present in order to over-explain almost every major plot point. The constant need to explicate ultimately comes across as an insult to the audience, since the filmmakers have a small amount of faith in the viewers. The narrative is sloppy, since the movie has a stronger focus on having twists than a concise plot.

It sounds as if I absolutely hated Now You See Me thus far, but it does have its redeeming qualities. This crime thriller might have some serious issues, but it's rather entertaining. Whenever the "Four Horsemen" are on stage, the audience is taken into a seemingly different movie. These are surely the most exciting segments of the entire picture, as it draws audiences in. The initial introduction provides a fun set of characters. Even though they only materialize through a few key scenes, it's better than not having any interesting roles at all. The few interactions we get the opportunity to view are rather solid. They exchange humorous lines of dialogue and even a few genuine moments. While there are some good things to be said about this film, they're in the minority.

With a top-notch cast, I was hoping for one of the better magic flicks in a while. Jesse Eisenberg is fitting in the role of J. Daniel Atlas. He utilizes some of the quick delivery that he used in The Social Network. Woody Harrelson plays Merritt McKinney quite well, as he presents audiences with the better humor to be found throughout the running time. Isla Fisher and Dave Franco receive a small amount of screen time in the roles of Henley Reeves and Jack Wilder. Regardless, they're both fine with these characters. Mark Ruffalo is a good actor, but I didn't believe him as Dylan Rhodes. This felt like an incredibly awkward performance that clearly roots back to the quality of the source material. Mélanie Laurent is better as Alma Dray, but only slightly. While they do what they can, neither of them feel genuine. Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine star as Thaddeus Bradley and Arthur Tressler, respectively. These are welcome additions to the cast, as they add a certain spice to the scenes that they pop up in.

The visuals work in the film's favor, for the most part. There are some strange camerawork decisions, which are expressed through the intensity within the chase sequences. Otherwise, Leterrier has successfully combined the efforts of numerous other artists. With each magic act that is performed, there's an apparent amount of CGI work utilized. Even though it possesses a digital appearance, Now You See Me looks great through the grand "Four Horsemen" acts. The over-the-top illusions have been expressed extremely well through the visuals. This is only enhanced with the film's solid audio track that utilizes each speaker as it should.

While Now You See Me isn't bad, it should have been a lot better. It got off to a good start, but quickly lost steam when the narrative transferred to FBI agent Dylan Rhodes. Instead of being an inventive crime thriller, it ultimately became another cat-and-mouse chase. The humor and the grandiose tricks created by the "Four Horsemen" are this feature's saving graces. It's surely entertaining, but the filmmakers felt the need to over-explain every plot point. There are some substantial issues here, but the film has its moments. Now You See Me is a misfire in the world of movie magic, but it's worth seeing at home. Rent it.



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