I’ve always been fascinated by magic, so much so that I even practiced card tricks and other close-up tricks after watching street magicians like David Blaine on TV. Attempting these tricks really made me appreciate the time and discipline it takes to effectively pull them off, and as a result, I have much respect for magicians and their craft. So naturally I was immediately drawn to the new film, “Now You See Me.” The premise of four magicians brought together to rob banks appealed to both my love of magic and heist films. For me, it was a natural pairing like chocolate and peanut butter, so of course my hopes were high. So did the film live up to my expectations? If only it had a little more up its sleeve.
The film starts off well with a glimpse at the four magicians played by Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco. We learn that a stranger has been monitoring their work and then brings them together to form a team called the Four Horsemen. They start off by apparently robbing a French bank in front of a live Las Vegas audience, then perform a few more tricks that actually are more like criminal robberies. Mark Ruffalo plays an FBI agent who tries to bring the Four Horsemen to justice, but is always a step behind. Veteran actors and Oscar winners Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine round out the all-star cast.
“Now You See Me” is a very slick film with cool visuals and good performances throughout. Director Louis Leterrier is an action film veteran, so the various thefts and magic tricks are smoothly executed. I also enjoyed the accompanying soundtrack. But the reason I can’t fully endorse it is that I needed more of the “a-ha!” factor. Every good heist film has that moment when the tricks behind the acts are revealed, and the more surprising the reveal, the more effective the film. But when the tricks to “Now You See Me” are revealed, I was a bit underwhelmed and thought there could have been a little more creativity. I was also disappointed by the fact that the four magicians didn’t really get to show off their individual skills. One was supposed to be a mentalist, one an escape artist, one a showman and so on, but these skills were never really utilized in the execution of their tricks. They basically became a team of interchangeable parts with no defined roles.
But the team does display great chemistry together, and I was never bored. Would I watch it again in the theater? Probably not, but I can see myself tuning in if I happen to catch it on cable one day.
“Now You See Me,” 116 minutes, is Rated PG-13 and opens in theaters today.