Movie Review: ‘Now You See Me’ |

Movie Review: ‘Now You See Me’

Courtesy photo



Directed by Louis Leterrier

Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Michael Caine, Common, Melanie Laurent, Dave Franco

Rated PG-13, Thriller, 116 minutes

“Now You See Me,” meant for an adult audience, is less thoughtful than the average young adult movie. For the unfamiliar, young adult films are aimed at 9- to 16-year-old viewers. Unsatisfactory as a thriller, “Now You See Me” offers mild entertainment in the form of unmasking complex trickery, but it loses its grasp on both reality and good storytelling, only to devolve into a “pick any card” gag.

The plot brings together four failing but talented tricksters, to create a performance team named “The Four Horsemen.” They are, narcissist hypnotist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), pickpocket con man Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), perky escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) and their fast-talking, sleight-of-hand leader J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg).

Forming a sort of “Mission Impossible” troupe, the quartet’s actions are guided by a mysterious, unseen hand that directs them to rob a Parisian bank before a thousand Las Vegas gawkers, then shower the onlookers with $3 million dollars. The robbery is witnessed by notorious magic act debunker Thaddeus Bradley, played by Morgan Freeman, who does his best to give Bradley an edge.

Thaddeus and FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) are looking into the robbery, and clamor for attention in this crowded screenplay as two of eight main characters. Another major character, Parisian Interpol Agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), partners with Ruffalo’s FBI agent to provide an international love interest. The script suggests Alma has secrets, but instead of thickening the plot, this bit leads us down a blind alley.

The story “head hops,” frequently changing perspectives from one character to the next, in an effort to tell its jumbled story — an indication of poor writing and/or inferior plotting. Perhaps intended to prevent us from guessing who is pulling the strings, this gambit is the movie equivalent of motion sickness.

None of these characters are established as someone we can root for, including imperious businessman Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), the financier behind The Four Horsemen’s act.

The film travels from Las Vegas to New Orleans, where the quartet pull off yet another heist, before heading to New York City for their grandest, and most audacious, cheat.

The nuts and bolts of The Four Horsemen’s capers are sometimes revealed and sometimes left as puzzles, but all are bizarre and ultimately unimpressive. Likewise, killing one of the main characters is an unnecessary plot complication.

In the real world, performers often fail to thrive. Most aren’t good enough, some simply aren’t recognized and a few squander their opportunities. When a hopeful seeks fame, the question is, to what length will he or she go to achieve that “Now You See Me” notoriety?

However, with a bit of introspection, the Four Horsemen might recognize themselves in that old saw, “She was only the liveryman’s daughter, but all the horsemen knew her.”

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