This exhausting film harps on the magician’s ultimate trick,
misdirection. That word describes the very nature of Now You See Me, which purports to tell a clever story when all it’s
doing is whirling in an endless spiral. (That
spinning is literal as well as figurative: I actually felt woozy as a result of
the camera’s endless swooping and swirling.) So what is it about? That’s hard
to say; the three credited screenwriters might have differing views on the
subject. I don’t even know if Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt worked
together on this patchwork script.
As the movie opens, we meet street magician Jesse Eisenberg,
shady mentalist Woody Harrelson, daring stage magician Isla Fisher, and slick
con artist Dave Franco. They are all summoned to a Brooklyn apartment by a
mystery figure; the next thing we know they’re performing together in Vegas
under the sponsorship of fat cat Michael Caine…and under scrutiny from magic
debunker Morgan Freeman. Then an apparent bank robbery puts FBI agent Mark
Ruffalo and Interpol detective Mélanie Laurent on their case. The four delight
in fooling and frustrating this law-enforcement pair and lead them on a merry
chase to New Orleans and New York City. Along the way there are multiple
chases, surprises, and near-misses.
The characters are sketchily drawn, so the success of this
film depends almost entirely on the storytelling, which is exceptionally
cluttered. What annoys me most is that the film doesn’t trust bona fide stage
magic and repeatedly sets up impossible “tricks” and situations. As it turns
out, that’s just a prelude to the final, ultimate reveal, which is stupendously
It’s a crime to waste so much talent on this piffle.
Director Louis Leterrier is a supposed action expert, but all he proves here is
that he knows how to induce vertigo in an unsuspecting viewer.
A good magician doesn’t just perform tricks; he casts a
spell. This annoying movie never pulls off that particular feat.