Disappearing Act, by James T. Sheridan
An all-star cast of Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Melanie Laurent, Dave Franco, and Common unite to make a film that is never greater than the sum of its parts. Louis Leterrier’s Now You See Me dazzles with its twists and turns, but it never fully worked or won me over. However, it is a fun time at the movies and refreshing in its storytelling.
Now You See Me genuinely would be fun to see again because once the big reveal happens, everything that came before it changes. That moment is quite fun, and the director plays fair by dropping clues into the film as he misdirects the audience. A swift series of opening scenes introduce everyone: J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) doing card tricks on a Chicago street; Merritt McKinney, hypnotizing and hustling in Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans; Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) escaping from chains inside a water tank; and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a street hustler on a ferry in New York City, offering to bend spoons for cash. When the team all receives a card from a shadowy figure representing “The Eye,” an association dedicated to the preservation of magic, they all converge on an apartment in Brooklyn. Cut to a title card that reads “One year later,” and they have combined to create a Las Vegas magic act called “The Four Horsemen” whose daring exploits lead to an audience member being plucked from the crowd, sent through time and space in a teleportation device, and a robbery of a bank in Paris. The robbery brings the heat down on the Horsemen in the form of Las Vegas police officer Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent). An elaborate game of cat and mouse ensues, hop scotching from Las Vegas to New Orleans to New York City as arrogant millionaires, debunking journalists, and law enforcement try to catch the troupe.
To say more would ruin the film. I think Now You See Me has the distinction of being more fun to think about than to watch. The twists are quite fun as the entire construction of the film makes everyone a potential “5th Horsemen.” However, the multiple elongated swirling camera movements around the characters grew tiresome and distracting as did some nonsensical CGI. A commitment to making the film about magicians, not killers, provides an exhilaration to the fight and chase scenes, as the goal is not to kill but to handcuff; this decision makes for a wonderful sequence where Dave Franco eludes capture in a small apartment through acrobatics and using a man’s suit coat to trap him. I like the reunion of Zombieland with Eisenberg and Harrelson because of their chemistry of mild insults toward each other, though I think for the second time this summer (The Great Gatsby being the first), Isla Fisher is given little do. I think the long sequences in a few locations works much better than taking on something much more elaborate. Production value is high, and the locations of Paris, Bourbon Street, and Las Vegas all shine.
I found myself wanting a film more focused on the magicians and less about the police chase. Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent are fine, but their development as characters translates into less jabbing between Jesse Eisenberg and Woody Harrelson. Simply put, I think those actors needed more screen time to emerge into more than just character types and to build some kind of arc. You could do a lot worse than Now You See Me for a summer film, but the question remains: Was there another film, a better film that disappeared from view after the promising first twenty minutes?