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Now You See Me' a magical misfire

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Film's promising start quickly devolves into implausibility

There are always a few films in every cinematic season that I find myself looking forward to. I allow myself to get excited about them, even though I long ago learned that Hollywood feeds on our hope like a shiny, overproduced vampire. And yet the anticipation still rises.

One of this summer's entries on that list was 'Now You See Me.' Despite the lessons I've been taught with regards to movie trailers, I saw this one and was immediately intrigued. A caper movie built around stage magicians? With a first-rate cast? How could I not be interested?

Unfortunately, life is filled with little disappointments.

In 'Now You See Me,' a mysterious stranger is recruiting a group of magicians. There's the fast-talking J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg, 'To Rome with Love'), disgraced mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson, 'Seven Psychopaths'), street hustler Jack Wilder (Dave Franco, 'Warm Bodies'), and former Atlas assistant and current escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher, 'The Great Gatsby').

Fast-forward a year and you've got the Four Horsemen, performing a spectacular Las Vegas show produced by millionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine, 'The Dark Knight Rises'). This show culminates with a real-life robbery in which millions of Euros are somehow stolen from a Parisian bank vault.

This leads to the involvement of law enforcement specifically FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo, 'The Avengers') and a number of other federal and international agencies. In addition, noted skeptic and magic-debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman, 'Oblivion') is looking to pull back the curtain on the Four Horseman in order to boost sales of his latest special.

The illusions executed by the Four Horsemen become larger and more elaborate while still remaining seemingly inexplicable. It's up to Agent Rhodes to solve the puzzle perhaps with Bradley's help - and determine if these magicians are just simple thieving hucksters or part of some grander conspiracy whose members have somehow stumbled upon real magic.

At its heart, 'Now You See Me' is a heist movie. And for the first three-quarters of its runtime, it's a pretty good one. There's some tension, some quality misdirection, some impressive moments really, it's a nice analogy for a well-done magic show. But in the final minutes, the film proves unable to escape the corner into which it has painted itself, resulting in a frantic tying of loose ends that is implausible at best and ridiculous at worst.

And it's too bad, because some pretty good performances are semi-wasted because of it. Eisenberg channels his 'Social Network' Zuckerberg arrogance in a new direction to good effect. Harrelson hits all the right notes as the gone-to-seed mentalist. Fisher and Franco aren't as memorable, but still do good work in keeping up.

In addition, Ruffalo who usually strikes me as a bit bland does a fine job portraying increasing befuddlement, resentment and desperation. And it has been awhile since we got to see Morgan Freeman really stretch his d-bag muscles; his smugness and self-satisfaction are a lot of fun to watch.

There are some really solid action sequences here. The magic trick set pieces are all well-constructed and engaging. And the story had a lot of potential potential that the film spent 90 minutes trying to live up to and 20 minutes completely and utterly undermining. The complete disregard for possible plot holes and inconsistencies borders on the insulting.

It's too bad 'Now You See Me' could have been something special; a new look at the classic heist trope. Instead, we get a movie that became trapped in the web of its own premise, ensnared by the temptation to try and do too much.

That said, I generally kind of liked this movie. I'm just upset because I could have loved it. I certainly wanted to.

3 out of 5

1 comment

  • Comment Link Elmer Tuesday, 16 May 2017 13:40 posted by Elmer

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