Films centred around the mystery of magicians and their dazzling array of fancy tricks haven’t been blessed with a strong success rate over the years, with only Christopher Nolan’s ‘The Prestige’ from 2006 deserving a mention. The blockbuster season itself could easily be perceived to be a ‘one trick pony’ with its relentless barrage of sequels. Eager to inject a true sense of magic to proceedings, enter Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk) and a wisecracking quad of eclectic tricksters whose moral compasses, Robin Hood would be proud of.
‘Now You See Me’s audacious premise revolves around the news worthy antics of The Four Horsemen, assembled together through peculiar circumstances. The aspiring yet naïve Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) sharing the limelight with his well established idol J.Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), alongside a ‘down on his luck’ Meritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and sassy escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher). A year on from their initial meeting, their act is one of the hottest tickets in town with the culmination of a headline show at the MGM Grand in glitzy Las Vegas, where we discover their real passion.
Fittingly proving that three is indeed the magic number, their planned hat trick of elaborate shady schemes prompts the FBI to enter the fray, with agent/non-believer Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) reluctantly heading up the case with Interpol investigator Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). In an attempt to get the inside track and understand the ‘mechanics’ behind such trickery, Rhodes enlists the help of former illusionist Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a TV personality whom now revels in the idea of exposing figures in the field. Cue a fast paced game of one-upmanship, as the ‘Horsemen desperately try to stay one step ahead of the law..
Playing out like a theatrical ‘Oceans Eleven’ spiked with the right dose of intrigue and the benefit of slick production values, director Leterrier is certainly not coy about deconstructing its core element. Whilst a gamble to unravel the mystique that surrounds the narrative, it certainly pays off as the plot twists and turn continue to mount as quick as the film’s breakneck pace. Despite occasionally suffering from shoddy editing, Leterrier is efficient in the staging of its audacious yet entertaining set pieces as our key protagonists continue to toy with its intended targets.
With such focus on the complexities of its premise, it is inevitable that the character development would suffer. The ‘Horsemen themselves are an admittedly egotistical quad and although they collectively toe the line between smart and smug, they do share a sparky chemistry. Eisenberg’s Atlas is hardly a far cry from his portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg albeit toning down the barbed wired wit here, with Harrelson’s ‘difficult’ nature garnering the sporadic laugh in particular. Unfortunately, their fun banter becomes minimalised as the film shifts through the gears of its story, becoming increasingly reliant on the trio of Freeman, Caine and Ruffalo to restore balance, which they achieve with their playful turns.
Its implausible ’tough sell’ of a resolution will likely amaze for perhaps the wrong reasons. However it doesn’t deter from ‘Now You See Me’ overall being a thoroughly entertaining and fun-filled caper, which will likely prove a refreshing antidote to mainstream audiences craving originality during this Summer season.