Now You See Me (2013) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4) : It’s all trick, you know

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“Now You See Me” keeps hiding some of its magic tricks even when the end credits roll, and that is one of its few good things. After all, magician is supposed to never reveal his magic tricks to the audiences, and we all know it is fun to guess how he did it after being dazzled by the surprise pulled out of his hat. It may look impossible on the surface, but we may eventually find it is actually possible and then we may admire his showmanship and skill.

The magic shows in “Now You See Me” are presented with style and gusto to draw our attention and I wondered about how they did it for a while, but, sadly, I kept seeing through many things in its story. The story starts with a good premise, but it merely pushes its cardboard characters along its predictable twists which do not make sense much when you think about them twice, and its big ‘reveal’ in the end is unsurprising because we can already guess it even before its third act.

The magic shows in the movie are presented by four magicians who suddenly rise to the fame as a group in spite of their respective obscurity. Individually, they look average although they are good at what they respectively do. J. Daniel Atlas(Jesse Eisenberg) is a nerdy but confident magician whose main job is impressing girls with his simple but fun card tricks on the street, and Henley Reeves(Isla Fisher) is a plucky escape artist willing to do a dangerous escape show involved with a bunch of piranhas, and Merritt McKinney(Woody Harrelson) is a mentalist who is past his prime but still pretty good as shown in his introduction scene, and Jack Wilder(Dave Franco) is a wily street hustler who can effortlessly draw the attention of his target in one direction while fooling him in the other direction.

nowyouseeme05Sponsored by a wealthy business man Arthur Tressler(Michael Caine), they present themselves together as ‘Four Horsemen’, and they give their audiences a spectacular moment to remember during their big show in Las Vegas. One audience is randomly chosen, and then, surprise, he is miraculously transported from the stage to the safe vault of a major bank in Paris right in front of the stunned audiences. Not only he is transported back to the stage, but also the stacks of money in the vault are also transported to the stadium, and the audiences are excited to see the money thrown upon their heads.

Of course, the police and FBI quickly start to investigate this daring robbery case right after it is reported that the money is really stolen from the bank in Paris, and the agent Dylan Rhodes(Mark Ruffalo) and his colleagues soon find themselves facing a hard case to solve. Four Horsemen members keep their mouth shut about how they did that, and there is no evidence or clue about their crime except what was shown in the show, so Rhodes has no choice but to release Four Horsemen after interrogating them for a while.

Becoming more popular with the increased attention from everywhere, Four Horsemen promptly move to their next big act in New Orleans, and Rhodes and Interpol agent Alma Dray(Mélanie Laurent) follow them to catch any chance of arrest. He also gets some help from Thaddeus Bradley(Morgan Freeman), an ex-magician whose current occupation is revealing other magician’s tricks in his own show. Bradley gladly shows how Four Horsemen could do their bank robbery to Rhodes and us, and Freeman, a great actor who is also a terrific narrator, makes his explanation scene engaging enough to listen to even though his character is as functional as any other characters in the story.

nowyouseeme03And the movie keeps playing its hand as the hidden plan of Four Horsemen is executed step by step on their stage. While we see a good old-fashioned trick like a rabbit disappeared in the magic box, we also get an amusing moment of group hypnosis, and then there is an unbelievable moment when almost every audience at the show literally gets far more than what they paid to see the show as a certain big written number is being changed by a mere flashlight on the stage.

Can the magic scenes in the movie be possibly done in the real life? I do not know, because many of them are decorated with CGIs. We all know that everything is possible with CGI in the movie nowadays, so we are not surprised to see one of Horsemen members being floated in the air while trapped inside a soap bubble. Maybe it can be really done in the real life, but I was constantly conscious of the CGIs in the film despite some degrees of amusement toward the various magic tricks shown in the movie.

The director Louis Leterrier gives us a slick entertainment product here while maintaining the pace of the story well throughout the film, but the story and its characterization is too weak and mechanical to hold our interest to the end. Four horsemen and its secret supporter who gathered them at the initial stage(this is not a spoiler at all because this is shown right at the start) are always at least three or four steps ahead of Rhodes and other agents, and it rather feels monotonous while we watch Rhodes and his colleagues fooled by these magicians at every chance. Even though I could not see through everything in the magic shows, I could predict the twists and turns in the story in most cases, and, to be frank with you, you will not be very surprised by the finale if you have ever heard of the Law of Economy of Characters.

Considering two Oscar winners and three Oscar nominees in the cast, the actors assembled for the movie look impressive to say least, and the movie is not tedious to watch thanks to their engaging presence although most of these talented actors are wasted in their roles which are no more than the nuts and bolts functioning in the plot. The movie is not bad for your mild entertainment at least, but it is all trick but no substance, so my mind quickly departed from it for better things to watch as soon as the movie was over.

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2 Responses to Now You See Me (2013) ☆☆1/2(2.5/4) : It’s all trick, you know

  1. S M Rana says:

    I thought of my own fascination with magic tricks at some age! That was a time when disbelief could be suspended. But the law of diminishing returns takes its toll and to quote Annie Hall, Woody finds no book fascinating which does not have “death” in its title. That alone is the eternal mystery–the truly “magical” thing!

    SC: And also natural thing, by the way.

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