Now You See Me
Release date: May 31, 2013
Director: Louis Leterrier
Screenplay by: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Mélanie Laurent, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Common
Movies about magic aren’t all that hard to put together. Some lights, some boxes, a little “abracadabra,” and you’ve got yourself something watchable. All the twists and turns in the world can be added to them, but not every writer has a knack for challenge the audience in just the right way. Now You See Me sadly can’t challenge anyone, never actually having anything of worth under its sleeve.
Now You See Me revolves around a group of magicians brought together by some unknown presence in order to perform some of the greatest acts of magic known to mankind. Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher, and Franco make up the amusing bunch, but their chemistry as a team only goes so far when they’re dragged into a plot that leaves one with their jaw wide open.
In their performances, the gang steals money. They steal from banks, they steal from the rich, they steal from whoever they want, but it’s all okay in their book because they give back to the people of the world. They’re the Robin Hood’s of magic and everybody loves them. In comes Ruffalo, whose police officer Dylan Rhodes get progressively angrier and gruffer as he chases them down unsuccessfully to advance the plot. And then there’s his female partner from INTERPOL, played by Laurent, whose character has absolutely no worthy reason to be in this story. It’s painfully aggravating to see her in a role that simply involves her slowly but surely falling in love with Ruffalo. Clearly no film of this nature could be complete without a romantic subplot to make everyone groan simultaneously.
The film follows your classic cops and robbers plot, but the added bonus here is magic. It kicks off with such potential, on a low scale series of tricks and conning people that actually makes for a fun opener. However, it doesn’t take long for Leterrier to adopt a “bigger is better” state of mind that sadly doesn’t work. A huge chunk of the magic featured in the film relies heavily on some sort of projection system that does things you’d only expect from Tony Stark’s home video theater. This isn’t to say that it doesn’t look good sometimes, but the suspension of disbelief that’s needed for most of the magic in this movie is baffling.
One of the biggest issues that comes along with this magic is its desperate longing to make every single incident into a plot twist. A sleight of hand here, a bunny in a box there, a disappearing act everywhere; it’s tiresome. Morgan Freeman’s character, a man who exposes magicians in a TV series that looks a lot like something you’d find on after Ancient Aliens, literally walks you through every magic trick performed throughout the film. The problem with this is that it shows that even though the writers are doing everything they can to make everything into a trick, they have absolutely no faith in the audience to settle into ambiguity or wonder how a trick was done.
When Now You See Me tries to amp up the action, they either succeed or flop, with the success mostly lying in Dave Franco’s hands. While the other actors don’t do all that much – however enjoyable they are as a group of rather charismatic magicians – Franco in particular seems to have the most fun. He gets his very own chase sequence that’s pretty dang entertaining, but once the film tries to pull off big car chases, it loses some of that fire. One shouldn’t expect much from big action set pieces in the middle of what should be a simpler crime film, but it’s hard not to want more when you’re bored out of your mind.
By explaining everything and leaving nothing to the imagination, Now You See Me falls into this dreadful predictability that leaves one laughing at just how ridiculous its plot twists and dialogue is rather than being genuinely entertained by the fun magic that it should be showing off.