Friday, December 13, 2013

#1,215. Now You See Me (2013)

Directed By: Louis Leterrier

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo

Tag line: "Come in close, because the more you think you see, the easier it'll be to fool you"

Trivia: Amanda Seyfried was considered for the role of Henley Reeves, but a deal couldn't be reached, so Isla Fisher was cast instead

Now You See Me, director Louis Leterrier’s 2013 movie about a team of magicians who act like modern-day Robin Hoods, stealing from large banks and corporations and then turning the money over to the masses, has all the makings of a film that should’ve annoyed the hell out of me. So why did I have such a great time watching it?

Four magicians: sleight-of-hand expert Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg); mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson); escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher); and street hustler Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), are brought together by an unknown entity. Jump ahead one year later: billing themselves as the “Four Horsemen”, they’re performing in front of a full house at one of Las Vegas’ largest casinos. To close out the show, they select a random member of the audience (José Garcia) and recruit him to help them rob a real-life bank. The catch is: the bank they’re hitting is thousands of miles away, in downtown Paris! After pulling off this incredible feat (and turning the $3 million Euros they swiped over to the audience), the Horsemen are brought in for questioning by the FBI, but with no concrete evidence to prove they actually committed a crime, Agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) has no choice but to let them go. Convinced the Horsemen will strike again, Rhodes joins forces with INTERPOL agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) and ex-magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who now makes millions exposing other magicians as frauds, to figure out how they accomplished this amazing trick, and, if possible, prevent them from stealing again. The real question though, is who are the Four Horsemen working for?

Now You See Me is a flawed motion picture. To start with, director Leterrier relies far too heavily on quick cuts and even quicker camera movements; there’s a fight sequence late in the movie, set inside a cramped New York apartment, that’s pieced together so frantically I could barely make out what was going on. Adding to the troubles is the fact we never really understand the motivations of the four main characters (for instance, why did they decide to team up in the first place? When we first meet them, each one is a loner, relying on their particular skills to carve out a living for themselves. One year later, they’re the Four Horsemen? How did they get to that point?). Finally, Now You See Me has so many twists and turns, so many misdirections and slights of hand that you know early on the movie is building towards a surprise ending. Yet the mere fact that we expect this surprise somehow lessens its impact once it’s revealed. In short, the filmmakers went to great lengths to prepare us for any eventuality, so when the big twist finally arrives, it’s something of an anti-climax.

And yet, damn it all, I was intrigued every step of the way! After they robbed that bank (and Thaddeus Bradley revealed how they pulled it off), I was hooked, and couldn’t wait to see what else the filmmakers had up their sleeves. Sure, the vast majority of Now You See Me is outlandish and incredibly far-fetched, but thanks to its strong cast, coupled with a genuine interest in what new and exciting feats were lurking around the next corner, I was more than happy to just sit back and enjoy the ride.

1 comment:

Jeff Hammer said...

I seem to remember them explaining the Four Horsemen thing, wasn't it the promise of joining The Eye or something? Maybe that's not a great reason but man... I'm with you, I loved this film and actually I didn't really even have as many issues as you did, but at least you aren't calling it one of the most disappointing of the year like Jay.