David Copperfield and friends meet Robin Hood describes star-studded Now You See Me, a series of bank robberies pulled off by stage magicians.
The Vegas audience get more than a great magic show, they’re showered with million of dollars of real cash, stolen from a bank all the way in France as part of the performance. The theatrics involved make for an incredibly entertaining performance –a member of the audience is teleported to France where he robs a bank, after which the winnings are showered on the crowd- with CGI and the characters’ showmanship elevating the heist to a whole new level.
The Four Horsemen responsible for this highly entertaining and “enriching” trick are classic card-trick master Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), escape artiste Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), amateur magician/pick pocket Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and hypnotist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson).
With the French bank missing 3 million euros (S$4.98 million), the magicians are brought in for questioning over the robbery, by FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and his French counterpart, Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent). After interrogations fail to produce any answers and with insufficient evidence, the 4 are released to go on to their next show in New Orleans.
You see then, that the mystery figure who recruited them was right in appreciating how their different areas of magical expertise complement each other and make them perfect for the crimes. Yes, the word’s plural because they continue to stage more performances and knock off other banks, as they elude the law.
Meanwhile, Rhodes meets with Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a retired magician who now exposes magicians’ tricks for a living. Having been at the first show, Thaddeus explains how the first illusion was done, breaking down the main mechanics of the heist, though his explanations don’t cover several key points, which may be disconcerting for the audience.
The 4 manage to complete 3 heists disguised as magic shows, each ending with giving away their loot to the audience, and the brilliance of infusing a heist with illusions and hypnotism, not to mention the financial windfall that far exceeds the price of a ticket, keep the audience enthralled and amused.
Behind the scenes sits their benefactor, insurance tycoon Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) who underwrites their performances. Subservient as the butler Alfred from Batman, Caine’s now in the commanding and assertive role of an arrogant millionaire.
Despite the movie’s failure to explain all the questions raised, like how did the magicians teleport from the top of one building to the next during their last performance, the quick pace with stolen money, car chases and fight scenes make it easy for the audience to ignore the gaps in the storyline.
Director Louis Leterrier known for action-packed The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans.
The star-studded cast, despite being impressive (the Horsemen are especially convincing in their roles as magicians), are handicapped by their under-developed characters despite a long running time of nearly 2 hours. It’s a pity we don’t get to see more of their back stories, especially for Thaddeus and Dylan. Instances of humour from Meritt directed at Daniel and his relationship with Henley get a chuckle or 2 from the audience, but other than that, the story, like any magic trick, moves too fast for much else.
The movie ends with a twist and a love story that feel misplaced and unnecessary. Who cares about romance, especially with a character you don’t know enough to care about, unless it’s part of the heist! Although the movie can’t hold a candle to the Ocean’s trilogy, it does amuse with the novelty of combining magic tricks and heists. The cast really picked up the slack and saved the show from its weak storyline, as Rhodes says after a surprising twist at the end, “The real magic is taking 4 strong solo acts and making them work together.”
If theatrics and magic tricks still delight and amuse you, the movie is one you don’t want to miss!
Release Date: June 6
Runtime: 1 hr 55 min
Censorship rating: PG 13
Director: Louis Leterrier
Main actors: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson