Monday, June 3, 2013

A Reel Review: NOW YOU SEE ME

A movie can be a lot like a magic trick; it isn’t enough to build up suspense and intrigue if you can’t make good at the end. Such is the task for director Louis Leterrier’s magical-mystery caper, NOW YOU SEE ME.
An FBI Agent (Mark Ruffalo) and his Interpol partner (Melanie Laurent) are hot on the trail of four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco) who pull off a series of magical heists against corrupt business leaders and companies, including their own financial backer (Michael Caine), and to the frustration of a magic-trick debunker/TV star (Morgan Freeman).

NOW YOU SEE ME chugs along briskly and joyfully as it goes through layers of twists and turns combined with spectacle and intrigue. The audience is dropped into the laps of the FBI Agents and their magic-debunker, and we see the film through their eyes as the magicians mysteriously get away with impossible robberies on a live stage. The film is plot-heavy, and the characters and their development take a back seat (or maybe even the trunk) to the story. The characters are merely players in the grand scheme of things, and it is nearly forgivable as the show is just too darn fun to care.
Director Louis Leterrier keeps the pacing quick, the humor well-timed, and the dialogue sharp as he guides us through a maze of mystery which winds up being more of a sleuth-film than a magical trip. The script he is working from has more than its share of flaws; major plot-holes and lapses in its very own logic are nearly everywhere. It’s storytelling in broad strokes; nitpickers will have a field day and the film can only be enjoyed as far as the audience is willing to not think about certain things. Leterrier shows his shortcomings as a director when the stakes have to be raised as his scenes involving “action” are boosted not by tension but by over-editing and way too much camera movement. His over-use and abuse of the 360-degree swooping camera move is neat at first but becomes nauseating after you see it for the 875th goddamn time.

The cast is overqualified for the plot, but it doesn’t matter because they are all a joy to watch. The film belongs to Mark Ruffalo as he gets to show a variety of emotions here. Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson continue to have great chemistry together, while Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine bring sparks when they share the screen together. Faring a little worse is Dave Franco, who despite having a lot to do seems to be a carbon-copy of his older brother (James Franco). Melanie Laurent is insanely cute and adorable, but the French actress is difficult to understand at times.
After spending 90% of the story (magic trick) building up a massive amount of mystery and awe, the film collapses under its own weight courtesy of a clumsy and clunky twist-ending which raises more questions than it answers. Although the big reveal (and the film as a whole) follows the basic template for a magic trick, it’s just too far out there to be believed and goes right back to the swiss-cheese screenplay at work. The film never bothers to drop any clues along the way for the end to make sense, and it is so loose they would have been better off taking a page out of the CLUE book by offering alternate revelations.  The only real revelation in the finale is that NOW YOU SEE ME is not as smart as it thinks it is.




  1. You make some accurate points as you review "Now You See Me." But I went is, as I would to any Magic show, looking for "Magic." And I found it in this film. Even after seeing it two days in a row. While even more complicated, it reminded me of "The Sting" which I believe is a true Classic. You've got to let yourself go when you see this one. Let yourself fall right into the picture! AND....see it on the BIG screen!


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