The premise of the film “Now You See Me” (2013) is novel and enticing: What if four magicians became bank robbers? And what if they used every means of obfuscation at their disposal to evade the police?
“Now You See Me” evokes great caper films of the past, starting with its cheeky title. Four professional Las Vegas magicians are mysteriously summoned to a meeting one day, and it’s not clear who has invited them. These four performers represent four different magic specialties. Jesse Eisenberg‘s J. Daniel Atlas is a magician who creates massive spectacles. Woody Harrelson’s Merritt McKinney is a mind-reader. Dave Franco’s Jack Wilder is a sleight-of-hand master. Finally, Isla Fisher’s Henley Reeves is an escape artist.
The purpose of this meeting is soon revealed. First, though, the movie jumps ahead in time about a year, and we discover that the four magicians have become a group act billed as the Four Horsemen. The Horsemen are sponsored by a vindictive insurance company owner named Arthur Tressler. Tressler, played by Michael Caine, may or may not be the person who called the magicians to that meeting a year prior. In any event, one night the Horsemen purport to magically transport a member of their Vegas audience into a Parisian bank vault. They appear to do just that, and the crowd is both astonished and impressed. But that bank in Paris, it turns out, is robbed that very night, robbed of millions. Could the Four Horsemen be involved?
Enter Mark Ruffalo, whom you may remember as the Hulk from “The Avengers” (2012). Ruffalo’s FBI agent Dylan Rhodes reaches Hulk-like levels of anger when he’s stuck investigating this super-bizarre crime. He interrogates one Horseman at a time, and finds himself getting nowhere. Especially entertaining is the way McKinney reads Rhodes’s mind rather than answer his questions.
There’s no evidence to detain any of the magicians, and so the authorities are compelled to let them go. At this point the movie shifts gears somewhat, and becomes more of a cops-chasing-crooks flick, though it remains highly unconventional throughout. Anyway, Rhodes teams up with overeager Interpol agent Alma Dray, portrayed by Mélanie Laurent. Dray is a fan of – and a semi-believer in – magic. Her soulfulness makes her a great foil to Rhodes’s gruff pragmatism. Meanwhile, the four magicians go on a robbery spree.
Yes, that’s right, a robbery spree. Excited by the possibilities inherent in a life of crime, they start robbing banks as a kind of hobby. In these heists they use mirrors, holograms and many other tricks of their trade. The robberies seem to get more elaborate as the film wears on, and “wears” is the right word: What starts out as comical becomes much less so as the onscreen events grow more and more preposterous.
Fortunately, however, Morgan Freeman shows up. His slightly detached performance steadies the film in its later stages. Freeman plays disillusioned illusionist Thaddeus Bradley, a former magician who has betrayed his colleagues by selling their secrets. Arthur Tressler ends up paying Bradley to chase after the Horsemen and find a way to reveal the details of their crimes to the public. Tressler’s seeking revenge because the Horsemen robbed his bank account.
So are the Horsemen apprehended in the end? Did Tressler actually mastermind the original bank robbery, or did someone else organize that crime? Those questions won’t be answered in this review. “Now You See Me” is too full of engaging twists to spoil its surprises here. Suffice it to say, while this movie might be far-fetched, and is certainly not a classic, it definitely has some exciting things up its sleeve.
Final Score: 3.8/5