Review: Now You See Me
PLOT: Four middling magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, & Dave Franco) are brought together by a mysterious benefactor. Now calling themselves The Four Horsemen, they’re brought to the attention of Interpol and the FBI when, using magic, they manage to rob a bank in France while performing in Las Vegas. Now, a cynical, disbelieving FBI agent, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) must team with a rookie Interpol investigator (Melanie Laurent) and a famous magic debunker, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) to determine whether or not the Horsemen actually are thieves, and whether or not they really are magic.
REVIEW: NOW YOU SEE ME is a movie I’ve been looking forward to since the first trailer dropped a few months ago. I mean bank-robbing magicians- how has this not been done before? The trailer promised a big, flashy caper done on a huge scale, and the first-class cast inspired confidence. I also like director Louis Leterrier, who, although he stumbled with CLASH OF THE TITANS, pulled off a perfectly decent INCREDIBLE HULK movie a few years ago, not to mention the first two TRANSPORTERS and UNLEASHED. So when NOW YOU SEE ME moved to a prime piece of summer movie real estate a few months ago, I was game.
Now having finally seen the finished film, it mostly delivered what I was expecting, in that it was fun and flashy and didn’t take itself too seriously. However, I have to admit that I’m a little disappointed in the approach Leterrier and his writers (Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt) ended up taking. While the trailers make the Four Horsemen out to be the stars, in the movie itself they’re only supporting characters, with none of them, not even top-billed Jesse Eisenberg having all that much screen time.
Rather, this is squarely Mark Ruffalo’s show, and while that would usually be a good thing (he’s a great actor) he also happens to play the most boring character in the film. So much time is spent following the almost-cartoonishly dogged Ruffalo around (complete with rumpled shirts, stubble, a loosened tie, and the occasional class of Jack Daniels- if this was the eighties he would have been chain-smoking) as he continually gets things explained to him by Freeman and Laurent, that it robs the film of a lot of momentum.
I get why this was done, as it allows the movie to unfold in a way that when the horsemen are performing you’re not sure of what’s going to come next, and then the so-called “smoke and mirrors” is pulled back and you can see exactly how the tricks were done. That’s all well and good, but I can’t help but think NOW YOU SEE ME would have been a lot more fun if we’d been in on the capers with the Horsemen the whole time. As it is, NOW YOU SEE ME becomes too much of a standard chase film, and it doesn’t help that Ruffalo’s character is easily the least interesting in the film.
Despite my disappointment with the direction the film ended up going in, I still had a pretty good time with NOW YOU SEE ME. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, and (especially) Isla Fisher make for a likable gang of bank-robbing magicians. Despite their limited screen time, each manages to at least create some kind of personality, with Eisenberg being the egotistical one, Harrelson the one with a past (being a disgraced former David Copperfield type), Fisher the one who wants to be taken seriously and used as more than just eye candy, and Franco the young one with a chip on his shoulder. This is all very standard for a caper film, but it works well enough, and their group dynamic is good. Michael Caine shows up for a smallish part as the billionaire entrepreneur bankrolling their act that’s not overly concerned with their larcenous magic, but seems happy they’re selling seats. By this point Caine can play a scoundrel in his sleep, and he still has that twinkle in his eye that lets you know he’s not phoning it in. Morgan Freeman also seems to be having fun as the “Amazing Randi” style debunker, who seems to be the only one who has any idea of what the Horsemen are up to.
Leterrier, like in his TRANSPORTER films, keeps the movie running along at a nice quick clip although other than a brief fight scene/car chase, the film is a little light on action. I still feel like he would have been able to direct a more exciting film had the focus been on the Horsemen rather than on Ruffalo (with a romantic subplot with Melanie Laurent that doesn’t really work), but he still puts together a light, entertaining film.
All in all, NOW YOU SEE ME is a pretty solid 100 minutes of entertainment, although I can’t help but be disappointed that it followed such a conventional cops and robbers procedural style for most of the film, and it would have been a lot more fun to have spent the running time with the robbers rather than the cops. Still, it’s worth checking out.