16th Jun2013

‘Now You See Me’ Review

by Jack Kirby

Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fischer, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Mélanie Laurent, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman | Written by Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt, Ed Solomon | Directed by Louis Leterrier

Now-You-See-Me-1

When I write my reviews, sometimes I like to write a brief list of all the things I feel I need to mention. These could be general notes, comparisons to other films or jokes I want to put in. For Now You See Me, one of the notes I have written simply says ‘stupid stupid stupid’. That’s because I needed to make sure I sufficiently conveyed how stupid stupid stupid the film was. Because this film really is stupid stupid stupid.

That’s not, by any means, to say it’s bad bad bad. Whilst Now You See Me may be a few cards short of a deck, it’s dopey fun. Four street magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fischer, Woody Harrelson and Dave ‘little brother of James’ Franco) are gathered together by a mysterious benefactor. A year later, they perform an elaborate magic heist on a bank in front of a live audience, with promises of bigger things to come at subsequent performances. Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent are the two feds assigned to stop the magicians doing crimes, Michael Caine is a rich sponsor of the group and Morgan Freeman is an ex-magician who dedicates himself to revealing tricks of the trade and generally ruining everyone’s fun. Incidentally, ‘mysterious’ and ‘benefactor’ are two words I don’t get to write frequently enough in film reviews. State of the industry, I tell you.

You may have noticed that that’s quite a big cast and not an unimpressive one either. It’s a pity therefore that we don’t actually get to spend a great deal of time with the four magicians – after the initial set up, the focus of the film changes to Ruffalo’s hard-nosed FBI agent. Which is fine, but it’s hard to deny that a fairly generic FBI agent character is inherently less interesting than a group of rock ‘n’ roll magicians. Ruffalo, with the best will in the world, doesn’t look like he’s really putting too much effort in, but then after his Avengers’ payday, who could blame him for cashing in on his newfound status with some money-spinning forth?

At the screening I attended, we were treated to some fun in the foyer at the hands of some actual magicians and an escapologist. These guys were in some reserved seating behind us and on a couple of occasions I was amused to note that they were laughing at lines that elicited no such reaction from the rest of the audience. It’s pleasing that the writers – Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt and Ed Solomon, of Bill and Ted fame, no less – have made the effort to include this kind of insider-level attention to detail, but it’s a shame a little more attention couldn’t have been paid to the plot.

If you’re looking for convoluted hodgepodge of a mess of a plot, then look no further than Now You See Me. It’s twisty, but in a predictable way and the final revelations raise more questions than they actually answer, and not in a good way. Inception has a lot to answer for; maybe it’s just seeing Freeman and Caine in a film together again, but watching Now You See Me, it felt like director Louis Leterrier (whose Transporter films stand out in an otherwise indifferent body of work) was aiming for a complex, reality-challenging, mind-expanding, Nolan-esque picture but has more or less come away with an even frothier and sillier version of Ocean’s Eleven but with more disappearing acts and glitter.

This resulted in a lot of folks laughing at the film rather than with it – none more so than in the romantic epilogue. But despite its stupid stupid stupid plot, its dodgy dialogue, its over-reliance on CGI over practical effects and general sense of flippancy, Now You See Me is undeniably rather fun. It’s slick, pretty to look at and though it may never trouble your thoughts again once you’ve left the cinema, will conjure up plenty of entertainment whilst you’re there.

Now You See Me is released in UK cinemas on July 3rd.

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