The Impossible. John Dies at the End. Texas Chainsaw 3-D. Gangster Squad. Promised Land. Broken City. The Last Stand. Phantom. Oblivion. Pain and Gain. Epic. Fast and Furious. After Earth.

now_you_see_meIt’s unfortunate when a movie really has all the tools it needs to be really special and then reveals itself to be wholly forgettable. Now You See Me is one of those movies. It’s packed with the right mix of talent, given a lavish enough budget to sell itself well, and comes packaged with a director with considerable chops. It should be a winner. And it almost is. Except it isn’t and only partially because Now You See Me is one of the most unrealistic films to come out of Hollywood in years. Especially for a film so in love with its twisty crackerjack plot. Most of the magic seems severely unlikely, the twists are goofy and oftentimes impossible, and an entire cast of characters who are apparently brilliant at what they do manage to feel like nothing but pawns on a frantically written Hollywood beat sheet.

Louis Letterier’s film jets from moment to moment pulling its audience fast enough so they don’t pick apart the lapses in logic. Why would a diverse group of high level practitioners of magic join forces and follow an invisible guide and do dangerous and illegal things without any real foundation? Why wouldn’t various law enforcement agencies do any due diligence on the people related in a case and the myriad of subjects n their investigation? How much can one really accomplish with hypnotism or sleight of hand or fancy special effects? How would some fat cats allow themselves to be so easily exploited? There are so many elements of Now You See Me that wither under scrutiny that it’s hard to forgive it knowing how many very good heist movies there have been in recent years and how difficult it is to combat the one-two punch of 2006’s The Prestige and The llusionist. It’s a perfect movie for people who really just like to be swept along without having any real mental commitment. Now You See Me is a really flimsy heist movie when looked at closely. It’s a shame because the cast is oftentimes quite good and Letterier delivers a few really interesting action sequences, especially one where Dave Franco does literally everything he possibly can to avoid capture. That moment really helps keep the film from fading from memory.

The premise involves a handful of top-notch magicians of different kinds (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco) being courted by a mysterious character to form The Four Horsemen, a newly minted magic act that bodes to take the world by storm. Instead, their magic leads to robbery and ruin and a punishment for people who are abusing others. A sort of fantastical Robin Hood premise. The law (led by Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, and Michael Kelly) is always a step behind and there are a pair of elder gentlemen (Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman) in the mix as well. It’s a robust ensemble, one which doesn’t allow for much subtlety nor a break in the pacing. They try to keep it breezy and there are some nice visual flourishes but there’s simply too much to do and not enough time to do it in a manner that evokes an emotion. If The Prestige and Ocean’s Eleven are Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross, this is their Boiler Room.

The magic looks amazing and the cast is terrific but the film unwisely overvalues its plotting and twists instead of letting the air out for these great performers to do their thing. The result is a mainstream movie trying really hard but ultimately just making a lot of noise.

Is this movie going to be a hit?

Nope. This weekend may get stomped by last weekend’s big champ Fast 6. And deservedly so.

What a great ensemble. What did they mess up?

These are all performers with considerable chemistry and charm together. It’s obvious. Sadly, there’s just not enough here to establish enough of a rapport. The story hurtles forward too fast and is too on rails in service of its plot to allow this amazing group of performers to really shine. Making it worse is when fun scenes (the airplane sequence for example) show what might have been if the film had a little different priorities.

Nick, did you see that viral video of Morgan Freeman falling asleep?

Yeah, it’s dumb and overblown.

Magic is really cool, huh?

Not really! I mean, Ricky Jay magic is. And when people materialize and then summon a goddamn hill giant to punch a person apart. But this kind of magic, not so much.

Jesse Eisenberg and Michael Cera. Opinion?

Couldn’t be less alike. I don’t get it. Then again some people think all Asians look the same so this is the deck we’re playing with.


Out of a Possible 5 Stars

Nick On… Is my new ongoing movie review column. The goal is to distill things a little and make it a little more playful and easier to digest rather than the long form. Hope you like. Please let me know what you think as there will be many of these coming and the goal always is to improve. Please share and whatnot.

– Nick (Twitter, Facebook)

The Impossible. John Dies at the End. Texas Chainsaw 3-D. Gangster Squad. Promised Land. Broken City. The Last Stand. Phantom. Oblivion. Pain and Gain. Epic. Fast and Furious. After Earth.

Now You See Me (2013)

FBI agents track a team of illusionists who pull off bank heists during their performances and reward their audiences with the money.

06.07.2013 (USA)
  • Louis Leterrier
  • Ed Solomon
  • Boaz Yakin
  • Isla Fisher
  • Morgan Freeman
  • Dave Franco
  • Mark Ruffalo
  • Jesse Eisenberg
  • Thriller
Watch or buy now

Now You See Me on IMDb