The art of distraction – Now You See Me review


By Jess Lomas
August 7, 2013

In Now You See Me, director Louis Leterrier attempts to make magic out of a lacklustre screenplay, but not even a star studded cast can save his feature from imploding as it nears its final trick.

FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent) are assigned a rather unusual case: bringing down a group of magicians whose first Vegas show ended with a French bank heist. The Four Horsemen consists of Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), a bad boy who beds women impressed with his street magic; Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), Daniel’s ex-assistant who’s made a break for it on her own; Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), a mentalist past his heyday enjoying a popular revival; and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), an apprentice of sorts whose skills are better put to picking locks and swiping wallets.


Also tracking the band of merry thieves is Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), an ex-magician who realised he could make more money debunking other magician’s tricks than performing his own. As the Horsemen’s travelling show moves to New Orleans and then New York, always seeming one step ahead of the feds, agent Rhodes turns to Bradley for help.

The set-up, while cheesy, is incredibly enjoyable, as we’re introduced to our Horsemen and they’re brought together, Avengers-style, by an anonymous ringleader. While the authorities are chasing the magicians, they’re chasing the truth; who brought them together and why? From the opening sequence Now You See Me is in high gear, brightly lit and fast moving, it seems a perfect mix of classic capers (a la Ocean’s Eleven) and clever magic, with one small problem. While the tricks impress and amaze the Horsemen’s audience in the movie, some of the glitz is lost in translation to the screen. Simply put: magic is not fun to watch unless in a live audience.

As the picture progresses, its obsession with the mantra, “The closer you look, the less you see,” becomes tiresome and the finale is less than the spectacle it was obviously intended to be. Saving grace comes in the form of Ruffalo, who is, as always, entirely charming. With a ripping pace it will be easy for many to overlook the plentiful plot holes and skeletal character motivations and simply enjoy the moments of subtle comedy and forced romantic awkwardness enveloped by the ostentatious magic and tricks on show.


Now You See Me arrives in Australian cinemas August 8, 2013.

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