‘Now You See Me’ is a cheap trick at best
Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me, essentially a heist film with a twist of Vegas-style magic, is itself a cinematographic magic trick, and all the slick action, quick dialogue, and flashy action sequences are almost enough sleight-of-hand to hide the film’s utter lack of depth or substance.
Leterrier, who directed the Transporter movies and Clash of the Titans, has an undeniable flair for action and pace, and Now You See Me is no exception. The introductory vignettes for the protagonists whirl by at breakneck speed; so quickly, in fact, that it’s easy to forget there’s not really any reason to like or root for any of them. The rest of the film is similarly paced, with an amped-up score and dazzling special effects, but very little in the way of heart or profundity.
The cast is generally strong, though, with each of the four leads giving enough here to make the end result at least watchable. Jesse Eisenberg, the dry, arrogant J. Daniel Atlas, basically reprises his role as Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network, except now Zuck can do magic and — perhaps more amazing — get women to like him. Isla Fisher is a fairly one-dimensional former Atlas assistant, and she strides around purposefully an awful lot in fetching outfits and wedges, but doesn’t get to do much to advance the plot.
Woody Harrelson is his typical cavalier, wisecracking self — if you guessed that he gives someone the finger at some point in this film, give yourself a prize — and is worth a chuckle every scene or two. Dave Franco, little brother to A-lister James, is surprisingly the most engaging and fresh out of the Four Horsemen, as the protagonists call themselves. He might be the only actor genuinely giving his best effort, and without too much screen time or dialogue, he manages to provide some energy and swagger.
Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, who shared the screen in Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight reboots, are about as listless and uninteresting as anyone can be onscreen. Between Now You See Me and the upcoming old-guys-partying Las Vegas, it’s safe to say that — at this point — Freeman has given up on serious acting and is now a professional check-casher.
The plot moves along briskly enough — it’s listed at 115 minutes, but doesn’t feel that long. It’s a good thing it moves as quickly as it does, too, because the underlying ‘story,’ if you want to call it that, is pretty questionable. The characters are orchestrating an enormous, globe-spanning caper and their motivations for doing so are vague, at best, and infuriatingly abstruse, at worst.
Eisenberg’s Daniel Atlas at several points tells another character, “Look closer, because the closer you look, the less you’ll see.” It’s ironically a very poignant statement about the movie itself. Go watch it, enjoy the ride, but don’t look too closely. Like most magic tricks, beneath the fast-moving flashy, fun surface, there’s simply not much to see.