Some would say that the art of film itself is magical. In case it’s not magical enough for you, director Louis Letterier adds more razzle dazzle to it. Lots and lots. In his latest movie, Now You See Me (2013), he introduces us to four street magicians, who use their pretty impressive skills for cheap scams. The three illusionists (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco) and a mentalist (Woody Harrelson) are then recruited by an anonymous leader to perform a set of shows to shake people’s worlds, and wallets.
Their first act in Vegas, involving a teleportation machine and hypnosis, sees them steal €3 million from the bank of France, in front of a massive audience, who in the end are showered with banknotes. This unusual event attracts the attention of FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol officer (Mélanie Laurent). Soon, they are backed up in their investigation by the magician-debunker (Morgan Freeman). The tricks of the ‘Four Horsemen” are very impressive, but the explanation of the stunts provided by Freeman is even more so – it’s impressive to uncover the magic behind the tricks.
This part of the movie is highly entertaining and would continue to be so, if the director had kept the ‘use the illusion for crime’ line of plot. But the next show prepared by the troop turns into a Robin Hood-like affair, where the bad millionaire owner of the insurance company gets punished and his clients rewarded with financial compensation. The plot loses its momentum, especially when we are faced with the idea that the ‘Horsemen’ have in fact been chosen to be the guards of ‘true magic’, or something along those lines – the explanation of this more ‘mystical’ element of the Horsemen’s acts is quite blurry and not followed through.
In any event, they do their final show in New York, and it is again amazing, colourful, involves money and so on. I will say nothing more, but let’s just say that there is a real surprise at the end, although when we get to know who the real mysterious leader of the Horsemen is, and we realise his motives, the first thought that springs to mind is: ‘Really? And you made all this effort for THAT?’
The film has a very likeable cast, with great potential to use their big names – Harrelson, Eisenberg, Freeman – and they all do their job, but their talents are not sufficiently exploited. The overall entertaining plot was spoiled by a completely unnecessary and rather boring romantic story between Ruffalo and Laurent. In fact, Laurent wouldn’t have to be in the movie at all, but I guess the director wanted to add a European touch. It is a very entertaining film and has great potential, that could, however, have been better exploited. In this particular case, more crime, less romance, and everything would be fine.