Director: Louis Leterrier
Cast: Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Melanie Laurent, Dave Franco with Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine
Plot: Detective Rhodes (Ruffalo) is called in to investigate a series of bank heists performed by four magicians, without a trace of evidence.
I am actually quite surprised that this movie hasn’t been made before. A slick Ocean’s Eleven vibe but with magicians. This film always has the feel that it’s onto a winning premise and therefore graces elegantly along, like a sports-star that knows he can win you over with a charming smile. For all of its flaws, at least we are grateful for spending a few hours in Now You See Me’s company.
This film plays with the idea that you cannot bring in a suspect for ‘immoral magic’. As Jesse Eisenberg’s arrogantly cool J. Daniel Atlas tells the FBI, even bringing them in will tell the media that at some level, they believe in the idea of magic, a career-destroying news-story. Therefore, while the Four Horseman carry out their heists, each more dazzling than the last, the FBI can do little more but run blindly after them, falling for every trick thrown at them. This sets us up for some great moments, Leterrier getting as much fun as he can out of magic. This is a very cool, entertaining movie, celebrating how awesome magic can actually be. Even the stone-hearted will be tempted to try and learn a couple of card tricks upon leaving the cinema.
Most people complain that the characters are skin-deep. The film has a lot to get through, so it crams as much exposition in as possible, lining up the characters and then getting on with the action. Sure, the characters are more archetypes than fully developed characters, but I felt closer to them than I was with Danny Ocean and his crew. We know the basics of the Four Horseman’s lifestyle and we end up rooting for them. It’s a shame that the movie focuses more on Mark Ruffalo’s tired detective than the magicians, as the Four Horsemen, despite being the stars of the show and the guys you want to see more of, are the four people that are shoved to the side the most. I can see why: time spent on them is a little longer the audience has to guess their next move, but it’s a shame that there wasn’t any more of the razor sharp dialogue zipping between the four of them. Each of them are fantastic actors, playing something a little different than their usual roles.
The real shame is that Melanie Laurent is the character that sticks out here. When she is given a French script, she works wonders with it, but here, her lines fall a bit flat. It doesn’t help her character is an Interpol agent that believes in ‘taking a leap of faith’. To be honest, she is only really in this movie to be a potential traitor. Leterrier throws in some romance, but it doesn’t really work. Ruffalo bounces off her well and you really feel for him, when he begins falling in love with her, but is aware that she could be the traitor he is looking for. However, by the end of the movie, these elements fall a bit flat. I hate to admit it, but I think Laurent was the wrong actress for the job.
At one point, I was worried Dave Franco got a raw end of the stick. He plays the youngest in the crew, the character that we have seen Matt Damon do in Oceans, and a few actors do in ‘Hustle’. Franco doesn’t really add to this stock character, throwing the cheeky charm he is used to giving all of his characters. However, just as I wrote him off, Leterrier gives him the best scene in the whole movie. There is a hotel fight, where Ruffalo finally gets ahead and catches up with the Horsemen. Franco is the only one there at the time and the two have an awesome fight. We get fake fire, cards being used as weapons and mirror tricks: everything we could want from a magician fight scene. I reckon Dave Franco will get a lot of work off the back of this movie.
Then there’s the ending. It’s just one twist too many and it kind of feels a little flat. While the movie has been really good at making magic realistic, it throws all of that out of the window for a mystical conclusion. I am not sure what Leterrier is thinking, other than: I need to make this ending amazing. It doesn’t work and it’s a shame, because this movie really had a chance at being something great. Whether you like this movie, depends on how much you let that final twist get to you. Because for the most part, we are given a slick, smart thriller that is always cool, usually exciting and has Morgan Freeman in it.
Final verdict: Fun, fast and amazing. Sadly the ending ruins everything and stops this movie from being the break-out May blockbuster.