★★★ The biggest trick any movie about magicians has to contend with is how implausible it will allow its magic tricks to get. If we don't believe the illusions these on screen magicians are pulling off, then the film is going to fail. And when the CGI heavy magic show kicked in here, it was a very tough sell for me.
If you’ve seen the trailer, you’ve seen the film’s most memorable trick. “Ladies and gentlemen, tonight we’re going to rob a bank.” The group goes on to steal 3.2 million Euros from a Parisian bank, all the while remaining on stage at their show in Vegas.
The cast is certainly Now You See Me's best feature. Mark Ruffalo plays Agent Rhodes, the FBI investigator who tries to solve the mystery of the bank heist. His investigation involves dissecting the magic trick itself, and the more the film tries to convince us the whole thing was realistically possible, the more we doubt it really was. Rhodes doesn’t buy into magic for a minute and he's sure there must be a logical explanation.
Morgan Freeman plays Thaddeus Bradley who is also investigating the heist. Bradley has a popular line of DVDs called, “Magic Unmasked,” that debunks the work of magicians everywhere, committing the magic world’s cardinal sin, never tell them how its done.
The magical foursome, who call themselves The Four Horsemen, put on three performances, giving Bradley, Rhodes and us three chances to solve the puzzle.
Now You See Me touches on the idea of “real magic.” But the idea is incongruous to the rest of the the story. And by the end, I never really bought the motive behind the Horsemen’s zany exploits. And the question of "why" is never answered satisfactorily. In a way, the whole thing is like a fraternity hazing. And there’s so much effort and money involved, we need to believe that the fraternity is actually worth it. But we’re never sold on that fact.
Instead we're sold a bit of ridiculous magical kung fu, where slight of hand and playing cards defeat the attackers, a la The Matrix. A car chase is thrown in as well to misdirect us from the film's problems.
I was happy to see Mark Ruffalo after loving him in The Avengers, and Michael Caine is always fun to watch. But the biggest surprise for me was the Zombieland reunion. Woody Harrelson and Jesse Eisenberg have great antagonistic chemistry together. They only shared a few moments here, and it left me wanting more. More Zombieland that is.
Footnote: This magical group calls themselves The Four Horsemen, which tripped me up a little just because it was also the name of a pro wrestling team I cheered for in the 1980’s. The real Four Horsemen consisted of The Nature Boy Ric Flair, Arn & Ole Anderson, and Tully Blanchard.
Fun Fact: I was a big Horsemen fan and one time at a wrestling event at the D.C. Armory I was sitting ringside with my Dad and called out to Arn Anderson, my favorite of the Horsemen. Arn not only heard me, but turned and pointed my way. I was elated! It was at that point his opponent snuck up behind him and won the match.