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Review: Now You See Me

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Director: Louis Leterrier

Writers: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt

Starring: Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Mélanie Laurent, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Michael Kelly, Common

Synopsis: Four trained illusionists perform three big performances wherein they pull off heists. With its illegality they are instantly tracked by the FBI but due to their trained trickery they are harder to catch than the FBI had imagined.

You may think there is a limit to a magician’s abilities, yet seeing those limits shrugged to one side by those performers consistently interests us. Now You See Me doesn’t so much shrug but shoo away most levels of believability when showing illusionists eliminating limitations. It’s ridiculous at points, levelled out by its core theme – magic – that parades it as just a fun ride.

With its tongue firmly in its cheek, the magic/heist thriller is not the psychological sleeper hit like The Prestige or even The Illusionist but lighthearted and, at points, very entertaining. Combining two subjects tricky to depict without garnering sighs or snickers from the audience, Now You See Me manages to mesh together the magician and heist sub-genres with glossy finesse. There are clichés and stumbling blocks in the script but for the most part it’s a savvy screenplay brought to life by an excellent cast.

Bar Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Common you have some heavy weights making up the ensemble – Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson to older screen legends such as Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. Not all give their best performances and actors like Eisenberg and Harrelson seem stuck on autopilot for parts not wonderfully written. With so many in the cast, however, you’re always able to find a handful of fascinating faces.

Joining the ranks of the familiar Hollywood bunch is French actress Mélanie Laurent (best known for Inglorious Basterds) whose beauty lights up the screen, whilst also adding a mysterious foreign allure to the proceedings. Laurent being the only love interest in the film (with Fisher’s character relatively wooden for such a part) becomes quite a central figure, alongside Mark Ruffalo. Ruffalo may not be the top billed name on the poster but this is unquestionably his film – and rightly so. Ruffalo has been consistently great in the majority of his films (even ghost rom-com Just Like Heaven is an interest watch with him in the lead), commonly strapped with the supporting role. Here he pilots the film more or less; the magicians are leading the chase yet it’s Ruffalo’s agent Rhodes that we predominantly follow, hot on the Four Horsemen’s heels. He’s surrounded by deception, attempting to stay on top of matters whilst stumbling over red herrings, a plot device that could be decimated by a lesser actor, but not by the Zodiac and Avengers Assemble star.

With the large cast the film meanders from time to time, but for some characters the parts are well written (Ruffalo, Caine, Freeman and Laurent) and the plot-line thrilling. Following so many players has its pros and cons yet the interesting pro is on another viewing you’ll notice something different or watch events in another light. It’s a clever aspect of the film, and the marketing whereby Now You See Me could achieve a second life on DVD/Blu-ray/VOD.

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