Review: Now You See Me – Abracadumbra
Director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter) has pulled a rabbit out of his nether orifice with Now You See Me, and, no, I wish I hadn’t. The only real trick in this film about magicians turned Robin Hood styled bank-robbers is that it will make two hours of your life disappear, never to be seen again. At one point in this movie a character says, “First rule of magic, always be the smartest person in the room.” Obviously that person was never Leterrier or this film’s writers.
In 1973, Bill Bixby starred as an illusionist who used his sleight-of-hand powers to solve crimes in the TV series, The Magician. Bixby would later star as Bruce Banner in The Incredible Hulk television series that ran from 1978 – 1982. Fast-forward to the film Now You See Me, starring Mark Ruffalo as a detective investigating a band of renegade illusionists. You may recall that Ruffalo starred as Bruce Banner/Hulk in last summer’s Avengers film. I mention this pop culture coincidence only because it’s the most magical part of this dull and incredibly dumb new film.
The movie begins with a pretty impressive trick (at least it worked for me), getting you to guess a card that is then displayed in the shape of the lit windows of a skyscraper, but then it’s all downhill from there as a mysterious hooded stranger recruits a band of magicians, by slipping them an intriguing tarot card invitation to meet at a designated place and time.
The recruits include master illusionist Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), his sexy former assistant Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), street magician and hustler Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and veteran mentalist/hypnotist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson). The four meet as requested in the upper floor of an apartment building that has been equipped with all manner of amazing magical mechanisms.
The film cuts and jumps to a year later and the four magic performers are now friends on a Las Vegas stage as an act called The Four Horseman. For their show finale the team brings a wealthy French man on stage and through hypnosis and “magic” they appear to rob the man’s bank, in France, then spray the stolen cash out over the theater crowd.
The magical crew is arrested and interrogated by Detective Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) and a female French officer, Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), who has been flown in by Interpol to assist in the investigation and to fill an illogical romantic interest role. The cops have no hard evidence on the slick magicians though and they are released after using their illusionist skills to make the police look like fools.
Rhodes & Dray then elicits the help of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a former magician who is now famous for debunking the magic secrets of famous illusionists, to help figure out how the Horsemen are performing their incredible robbery feats.
Veteran actor Michael Caine also has a relatively small role in this movie as the corporate sponsor behind The Four Horseman, but despite the high caliber of the acting talent involved in this film, Now You See Me is a huge disappointment and I find it hard to believe that these actors actually bought into this ill-conceived project.
Now You See Me reminded me of a bad network television movie you might see play on a slow Thursday evening when no one is expected to be watching. The script, direction and even the music is sub-standard for a big screen film and I can imagine the well-known actors in this dud are wishing someone would wave a magic wand and make this red mark on their resume go away.
They say that magic is all about misdirection, which might work fine on a Vegas stage, but director Leterrier should have known that a disjointed, convoluted and misdirected film just makes for a bad movie that leaves the audience wondering how they got tricked out of their $10 bucks. Grade: 3/10
Photos © 2013 Summit Entertainment