Now You See Me Review
by Daniel Rester
“Look closely. Because the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.” That’s one of the taglines for the new magician-centered thriller Now You See Me. Too bad that I saw a lot of things coming in Me, a film with an interesting premise and many fine elements that never quite pulls off cinematic magic.
Me has four street magicians coming together under the instructions of a mystery figure. The team starts to stir things up after they begin doing shows that involve bank-robbing tricks. As their shows go on and involve the team going to different places across the U.S., the FBI stays on their heels in order to try and figure out how the team is pulling off the heists.
The four magicians are played here by talented cast members. They include Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco. Eisenberg plays a chatty and energetic character, which is something he could do in his sleep by now (but still entertains). Harrelson is welcome, like always, while Fisher is sexy and fun in her part. Franco also does well with the other three and is starting to really make a name for himself as an actor. All of these actors have terrific chemistry as well.
The FBI agent on the magicians’ tails is Dylan Rhodes, played by Mark Ruffalo – who gets away with arguably the best performance in the film. Joining Rhodes is an Interpol agent named Alma Vargas, played by the lovely Melanie Laurent (most notable for her role in 2009’s Inglourious Basterds). Also in the mix of things are a millionaire who funds the magicians’ shows and a past magician who seeks to expose magicians’ tricks, played by veterans Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, respectively. All of these supporting players add a lot to the film and help keep things worthwhile.
The script, by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, and Edward Ricourt (based on a story concocted by Solomon and Yakin), presents a few intriguing ideas about the world of magic. However, it also resorts to pretty basic storytelling at times, contains predictable moments and banal dialogue, has a half-baked romance, and never develops its four lead characters enough. It also invites the audience to maintain a sense of wonder about the tricks while simultaneously (and easily) revealing how a lot of them were done. This actually erases some of the feelings of awe instead of reinforcing them. Also, other moments that should be explained more are given lesser care. With more attention to complex (but coherent) storytelling and character development, the script could have matched a script like the one for The Prestige (2006) – a great film about magic. But the many issues keep it from reaching such a level.
Director Louis Leterrier (who made The Incredible Hulk (2008) and Clash of the Titans (2010)) sort-of seems like an odd choice for directing this material. That being said, he actually delivers everything pretty well. There are a few sequences that rely on visual effects and quick camera movements a bit too much, but Leterrier also allows for plenty of moments for the actors to do their thing. He also allows the film to maintain a brisk pace, and he injects Me with a few scenes that are fuelled by surprises and excitement. I just wish more of the film had such a thing to offer.
Me isn’t a terrible film by any means. But what starts off as great fun soon deflates into mediocre summer entertainment. The movie has a marvelous cast on its side, but lacks in many other areas. I left the theatre forgetting the film quickly instead of still being spellbound by it, which is something of a disappointment coming from a movie that has magic as its main focus.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 4 stars (Grade Equivalent for Me: B-).