Four magicians are assembled by a mysterious benefactor in order to pull of high stakes crimes using their skills of deception and illusion.
Unfortunately, the filmmakers aren’t as good at movie magic. “Now You See Me” is entertaining, but wouldn’t withstand the slightest scrutiny.
Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) are all low-level magicians of one degree or another. Atlas and Reeves have stage shows, while McKinney uses his mentalist tricks to scam people and Wilder uses his magic as a distraction in order to pickpocket people. When each have invitations on tarot cards slipped to them, they find themselves brought together to form a single act, “The Four Horsemen”.
Only the Four Horsemen don’t just do magic, they rob millions of dollars during their performances.
In the middle of their first performance, the Horsemen take a member of the audience, “teleport” him to his bank vault in Paris, and let him watch as they vacuum all of the money out of the vault to shower down on the audience back in Vegas. It’s more than a trick, however, the French bank is actually robbed of millions of Euros. The FBI (represented by Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol (Mélanie Laurent) begin to investigate the group, but can’t get around the “how did they do it?” aspect of the crime. They seek assistance from an ex-magician and current magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who makes his living nowadays exposing magicians secret’s and revealing how they do their tricks. With the Four Horsemen though, he may have met his match.
With the FBI and an ex-magician on their tail, will the Four Horsemen be able to get away with their high-profile crimes, or will they be put behind bars they can’t escape from?
“Now You See Me” is fast paced and fun, but so light and airy that it almost doesn’t even qualify as confectionary. My hopes for heists perpetrated by magic were dashed, as all the crimes are over simplified and the “how did they do it” aspect is loosely explained at best. The stunts that the Horsemen pull in furtherance of their crimes and in aid of their getaways are pretty preposterous, and eventually require more than your standard share of suspension of disbelief. Even if the things they do could be done, they would have had to have thought of every minute detail far in advance and have things unfold precisely as planned, and again that’s if they even could be done at all.
The cast is eminently watchable, although I admit that I was disappointed that the FBI got as much screentime or more than the Horsemen did. As much as I like Ruffalo and Laurent, I would have much preferred more time with Eisenberg, Harrelson, Fisher and Franco. Michael Caine has only couple of brief scenes as the wealthy financier who funds the Horseman’s show, but Morgan Freeman has a substantial role. Having such a loaded cast is another bit of sleight of hand from the film. You enjoy watching these people, even if the script they’re working from is flawed.
The film keeps things fast paced in order to cover its deficiencies, and it is fairly fun if you’re willing to experience the film unquestioningly. Unfortunately, the final act was disappointing to me, especially the revelation of the identity of the puppet master pulling the Horsemen’s strings. Between that and the fact that the heist/magic elements were so thin, I found myself mildly disappointed, even though there’s still a decent amount of entertainment to be had.