Aug 042013


Can four magicians successfully rob a bank in front of a paying audience? Is it really magic or is it all just a bit of razzle-dazzle, designed to distract the audience from the real trick? My review of magic crime-caper film, Now You See Me is after the jump.

J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) are four street/stage magicians with varying degrees of magical talent. They are bought together by an unknown benefactor, who invites them to a dingy New York apartment by the way of an invitation printed on Tarot cards. The story then jumps a year, and we discover that the group have become celebrity magicians, known as ‘The Four Horseman’. We join them during a Las Vegas show, as they deceive and delight with their on stage antics, particularly with their outrageous final trick. They appear to rob a Parisian bank by transporting a man into the bank’s vault and sucking the money out of the vault and into the audience. Surely this just an illusion? Perhaps, but the exact same bank was robbed, and the money is really gone.

FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is given the case, and an unwelcome partnership with French Interpol agent, Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent). The Four Horseman claim it was magic and if they were to be arrested, it would be akin to the government admitting that magic is real. So how did they do it? And what is coming next? These four have talent, but they are only following instructions from their benefactor. What is said benefactor’s end goal? Is there a point to the madness or is it just a grand illusion?

The tagline spouted by the magicians in this film is, “the closer you look, the more you see”. I’d have to say that in fact, the opposite is true when it comes to this film. The closer you look, the more it falls apart. Slight of hand is all about distracting the audience, directing their attention elsewhere. If you pay too much attention, you’ll find that it isn’t really magic, it’s just deception.  That, is this film in a nutshell. The flamboyant stage show, the arrogant attitudes and outlandish behavior are all very entertaining to watch, yet you know you’re being deceived. When you try to untangle the story-line and motivations of the characters, it all becomes very flimsy.

The side-story involving Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman is perhaps the film’s weakest asset. The role of each character is twisted and swapped around so many times, that by the time you find out their real place in the whole mess, you don’t really care. Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent stat off as the clichéd law enforcement officers who are forced to partner up, but at least the story gives us reason to invest in them as the film goes on. It’s a real shame the writers felt the need to add a romantic element to their relationship, as it felt completely forced. Attention screenwriters: not every film needs a romance! The highlight of the film for me was the performances from Jesse Einsenberg as the fast-talking street magician, and from Woody Harrelson, as the mind-meddling hypnotist. The pair is interesting to watch on-screen and give their characters just the right amount of attitude. Harrelson in particular, added much-needed comedy, as he ruffled the feathers of both the tightly wound officers and his self-important magician colleagues.


By Sam McCosh

The Facts

Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer(s): Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine
Runtime: 115 minutes
Release date(s): Australia: August 8 2013