Review: NOW YOU SEE ME (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Review: NOW YOU SEE ME (2013)

Wow... so this is David Copperfield's apartment?
NOW YOU SEE ME is highly-entertaining, if preposterous magic-themed crime caper enlivened with great ensemble cast and energetic direction by Louis Leterrier.

When I first saw the trailer for NOW YOU SEE ME, I was particularly fascinated with the high concept that mixed magic and heist-movie genre. Think Christopher Nolan's THE PRESTIGE crosses with Steven Soderbergh's OCEAN'S ELEVEN and Bryan Singer's THE USUAL SUSPECTS -- and you'll get the idea.


The movie centers on four magicians: illusionist J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg); escape artist Henley (Isla Fisher); hypnotist/mentalist Merritt (Woody Harrelson); and pickpocket Jack (Dave Franco) -- who are all ended up receiving tarot card invitations to show up at a mysterious New York City apartment on a designated day and time. One year later, they have joined forces and they are now known as "The Four Horsemen", performed to sold-out crowds on an arena tour backed by millionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). On an opening first act at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the Horsemen perform a fascinating trick where they teleport a French audience member (Jose Garcia) from the stage to a vault of a Paris bank and help them steal $3.2 million Euros. All that money is then magically shower down on the excited audience inside the theater. Soon the Horsemen end up in FBI custody, supervised by Agent Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and a French Interpol officer Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), when the same Paris bank happens to lose $3.2 million Euros after all. However, Rhodes has no concrete investigation to press charges against them with no choice but to release them immediately. As Rhodes and Dray continue to investigate further, they discover a professional magician debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who is a retired illusionist himself, may or may not be siding them or helping the Horsemen involved in a series of crime activities.

Directed with surprisingly cinematic sleight-of-hand by Louis Leterrier, I must say this is his best and most entertaining movie he's ever made. And it's hard to believe he's the same B-movie director who once directed the first two TRANSPORTER movies before graduating to big-budget but underwhelming fares like THE INCREDIBLE HULK and CLASH OF THE TITANS. Here, his direction is pacy yet playful enough to keep you glued to the screen especially with his brilliant choice to shoot nearly everything with swooping Steadicam. Then there's the top-notch ensemble cast -- Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco (yup, that's James Franco's younger brother), Morgan Freeman, Melanie Laurent and Michael Caine -- who are all acted with great enthusiasm. But of all great acting performances here, it was Mark Ruffalo's intense performance as Agent Rhodes who excels the most. Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt's screenplay is crafty enough that blends all the genre mishmash mentioned earlier, and occasionally sparks the movie with snappy dialogues.

The crisp opening scene that introduces the four magicians; the awe-inspiring magic scene involving the teleport of a French audience member from Las Vegas to a vault of a Paris bank to empty all the money; the entertaining interrogation scene involving Atlas and Merritt; and the impressively staged action set piece that begins with a stylish card-throwing fight scene between Jack and Rhodes in an apartment and ends up with a highly-energetic car chase scene from the crowded city traffic to a street bridge.

Despite Leterrier's clever cinematic choice to use Steadicam, it's rather questionable why he opted to stage some of the action scenes (especially involving foot chase) in a frenetic fashion. And as crafty as the screenplay is, the twisty ending is quite sluggish with its talky exposition.


Dammit! I can't turn myself into Hulk after I flipped my car...

While the movie has its fair share of glaring flaws (well, that's always the case when comes to magic-themed genre), NOW YOU SEE ME is fun enough to watch for.

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