Saturday, September 7, 2013

Film Review : Now You See Me (2013)


A magician’s audience can choose between two options. Either suspend your disbelief and enjoy the ride. Or try to outwit the smartest guy in the room. My money is on the first option that requires you not to think too much – and it seems that’s what the makers of Now You See Me are banking on.

Now You See Me is an elaborate chase caper spanning New York, Las Vegas and New Orleans. Four magicians (Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco and Jesse Eisenberg) lead an FBI Agent (Mark Ruffalo) and his Interpol offsider (Mélanie Laurent) through a maze of stadium-scale magic tricks which involve Robin Hood-style theft from banks, giving to the needy and climaxing each time in a shower of paper currency. Their exploits are funded by an indulgent patron (Michael Caine) and followed by a TV exposé producer (Morgan Freeman).

The magicians are inappropriately titled ‘The Four Horseman’ – a name that might work well on promotional flyers but falls flat when no apocalypse is forthcoming. What is most disappointing about Now You See Me is that it promises magic, yet delivers none.

Stereotypes abound. Charming french Interpol agent, Alma Dray (Laurent), is bound up in her beige-coloured, spy-cliché trench coat for much of the action. She even wears Chanel-inspired stripes on her days off. Trés Chic.

The combined talents of Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are assigned to small roles which amount to glorified cameo appearances. It feels very much that they were brought in to broaden the appeal of Now You See Me to an older audience at the box office.

It’s a visual pleasure to see the attractive ‘four horseman’ outwit their pursuers against the sequinned backdrop of stage-show magic. Unfortunately it’s all glitter and no substance.

Dialogue like ‘Time is a luxury I don’t have right now’ barked by Ruffalo, fills the script with clichéd cop-talk typical of any cat and mouse-type chase tale.

Overall Now You See Me has an arrogant street magician’s tone. The condescending catch-phrase ‘The closer you look, the less you see’, plastered over the promotional posters and sprinkled partonisingly into the dialogue, infers that the clues are obvious. When the twist is revealed it feels more like an unwanted Christmas gift than a bolt of enlightenment.

The story itself would be better suited to a graphic novel where the characters and themes could be more deeply explored. However, a graphic novel won’t help sell candy bar treats to packed movie-houses on a Friday night. The absence of gore, sex scenes or genuine intrigue make Now You See Me a perfectly inoffensive ‘date night’ film. I suspect that was the filmmaker’s intent all along.