Now You See Me

Year: 2013
Studio: Summit Entertainment
Director: Louis Leterrier
Writer: Ed Solomon/Boaz Yakin/Edward Ricourt
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine

A word of warning. Don't go back and watch this movie again. It's fun enough and has a good sense of verve the first time around, and you might find the enormous twist ending surprising enough (all your snooty friends will claim they saw it a mile off).

But when writers Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin came up with the suckerpunch plot turn, it seems they didn't go back through to make sure the actions of the character concerned made sense to the rest of the story. When you look back on his/her part in the tale, almost nothing he/she has done makes any sense.

A team of master illusionists are bought together in New York and given a strange assignment. They'll form a troupe of Las Vegas magic performers, and their signature trick is to teleport a random audience member to rob a bank for them but transporting him right inside the vault.

But there are skeptical sets of eyes on them at every turn. One is professional magician debunker Bradley (Freeman) and the other is FBI agent Rhodes (Ruffalo), irritated about being teamed up with a cute Interpol agent (Laurent) despite her almost having a neon sign over her head telegraphing her as his love interest.

Even after they arrest the gang they can't make it stick for lack of evidence, so Rhodes has to let them go, vowing to keep a close eye on their shows and catch them in the act.

Their next and penultimate performance is to empty the bank account of their rich backer (Caine) – who they have a sudden vendetta against that isn't really explained – by having his money turn up in the accounts of everyone in the audience as they check their phones.

So we're left with three collective antagonists to confuse the story, an increasingly convoluted plot that you just know will have trouble untangling itself and a studio executive's office worth of conveniences, contrivances and cliches to do it with. From almost the first few scenes you can tell that – narratively, at least – the whole thing's going to end up a flabby, wildly undisciplined mess.

Which leaves only the flash, pizzazz and personalities to try and save it. The former are enough to distract you from the many flaws in the plot, Leterrier's camera wheeling around the cavernous casino theatre during the group's show and making you the target of the illusions as much as the characters. That alone gives it sheer entertainment value, and the very watchable characterisations (almost an excess of them) by a varied range of actors carry you the rest of the way.

It's glitzy and showy but without much depth – the perfect metaphor for the system that made it, really.

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