Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 55 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for Language, some Action and Sexual Content
Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman & Michael Caine
A good magic trick keeps you guessing as to how the magician created the illusion, while also keeping you intrigued and believing (even a tiny bit) in the unknown. A good movie aims for the same goals. While NOW YOU SEE ME does have a very cool twist ending that I didn’t see coming, it also neglects to make the whole film worthwhile by increasingly becoming even more farfetched as it goes along. Stretching belief is one thing, but treating your audience to one revelation after another in hopes that they won’t realize they are being misled into a rather mediocre movie isn’t really a magic trick that I’m altogether interested in.
Four magicians all receive invitations to meet at one specific location from an unknown person. Together they become one of the biggest magic shows in the nation. With their new popularity also comes a plan that will begin in Las Vegas and end in New York with a series of intricately executed “magic tricks.” These tricks are the disguise of heists that steal from the wealthy and give to the poor. A male FBI agent and a female Interpol agent are paired together in order to stop the four thieves from executing their crimes, all while an ex-magician tries to uncover the group’s secrets to sell them for big bank. That’s pretty much the design of NOW YOU SEE ME, which is more like a giant trick wrapped up in the guise of a summer blockbuster.
I’ve seen a couple of reviews stating that NOW YOU SEE ME is way better than OCEAN’S 11, 12, or 13. While I agree that pretty much anything is better than OCEAN’S 12. OCEAN’S 11 and 13 had something that NOW YOU SEE ME sorely lacks. They had characters you could root for and get behind. They were thieving criminals, but they were likable thieving criminals. We are given no character development whatsoever in this film. I couldn’t care less if they lived, died, got away, or rotted in jail. NOW YOU SEE ME gets so wound up in pure spectacle and a convoluted plot that it forgets to engage the viewer emotionally.
Effects wise, the movie looks stunning and polished, but visuals only get you so much credit. Besides the characters not having any real development or arch, the cast never really delivers any performances that stand out. Woody Harrelson is unusually bland, while Jesse Eisenberg (who’s proved himself to be a phenomenal actor in the past) seems to be wrapped up in a smart-ass bad boy routine. Isla Fisher is nothing more than mere eye candy here and Mark Ruffalo seems to only play a frustrated and/or continually perplexed cop. Morgan Freeman’s character doesn’t add much, though they treat him like some sort of villain. Michael Caine is hilariously forgotten about halfway through the film too.
NOW YOU SEE ME has one spectacular thing going for it. The twist ending is quite clever, but all of the other convoluted nonsense leading up to it doesn’t really make it fun for the audience to get there. A perfect movie, much like a good magic trick, must amaze and astound. It must leave the viewer wanting to watch it all over again. THE PRESTIGE is a fantastic example of this as a magic trick brought to the cinematic screen, but NOW YOU SEE ME feels like it’s tricked the viewer out of their valuable time, rather than leaving them with anything particularly great.