Louis (“Clash Of The Titans”, “The Transporter”, the better “Hulk” movie) Leterrier’s latest is a slick, glossy crime caper with a swagger that would make Danny Ocean blush. Two Parts “Ocean’s 11” (or 13, but not 12), one part “The Prestige”, it boasts a stellar cast headed by Mark Ruffalo and ably supported by Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine and that spare Franco brother Hollywood keeps around in case anything happens to James.
The set-up is carried out efficiently, introducing us to the four horsemen, a loosely connected group of the up-and-coming street magicians and one also-ran slogging his way back up the comeback trail. With the introductions complete, the film wastes no time plunging straight into the action, introducing both Michael Caine as the Horsemen’s wealthy backer and Morgan Freeman as ex-Magician Thaddeus Bradley, now a famous TV debunker of magic tricks. After a daring and seemingly impossible bank robbery (which you’ve pretty much seen in the trailer), the Horsemen are arrested, which brings in our final protagonist, Mark Ruffalo’s FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes.
From the Vegas escapade, the film really kicks into high gear as the characters play a complex game of cat and mouse across America. The interesting nature of the cast is that everyone is so likeable that it’s difficult to really be sure who you should be rooting for. I’m going to give the makers the benefit of the doubt and assume this was deliberate as while there’s definitely a game of cat and mouse being played, you’ll be changing your mind throughout the film as to who is the cat and who is the mouse. Every character prides themselves on being a step ahead and are constantly inviting both their adversaries, and us the audience, to come and look closer, because the closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.
The role of FBI Agent Rhodes finally gives Mark Ruffalo a place to release all that anger he had to suppress during “Avengers Assemble” and he goes to town, with the anger dialled up to 10 from the moment he appears on screen. While the cast are generally given plenty to do, Dave Franco gets short-changed as the least important of the Four Horsemen although even he gets his moments. There’s a vague romantic sub-plot for Agent Rhodes but it feels tacked on and unnecessary, wasting Mélanie Laurent in a fairly pointless role.
As the plot unfolds at breakneck speed, there are twists and turns and revelations aplenty, all delivered with a good natured flourish and propelling the whole ensemble through to the grand finale.
For me, the final reveal was a twist too far and just didn’t work at the time of watching. Having ruminated on it since, it’s not as ruinous as I felt at the time but I’m definitely left with the feeling that I glimpsed the hand of the writer trying to get the plot rings to link up neatly and it spoiled the illusion.
Overall, though, this is a solid piece of entertainment. As an alternative to the usual, bloated summer conveyer belt of brash, noisy blockbusters, this breezy romp is a breath of fresh air and it’ll keep you entertained long after you’ve left the theatre discussing the intricacies of the plot with your friends. Of course, under close examination it doesn’t make a lick of sense but as Mélanie Laurent’s character advises in the film, sometimes you shouldn’t look closer; you should stand way back and look at the big picture instead. And from that vantage point, “Now You See Me” is very entertaining indeed.