Now You See Me is a film that plays out with a disdain for its audience, always keeping them at arm’s length in hopes that the viewers will never figure out what secrets are hiding beneath its surface.
In some respects, it’s like real magicians, who always hope to hide the secrets to their tricks. However, the difference with Now You See Me is that when all the cards are on the table and the final reveal has occurred, the audience is far more likely to feel cheated than amazed. When a magician tricks the audience, they’re often given the chance to figure out how he or she did it. This is a film that conceals everything and doesn’t offer the audience that opportunity.
The basic plot of the film involves four incredibly talented magicians — played by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco (no, their character names aren’t important as they’re only mentioned a couple of times) — who rob banks and the rich while performing their magic shows and give the money to others.
Their thefts draw the attention of both the FBI, led by Mark Ruffalo’s Dylan Rhodes, and Interpol, who assign Mélanie Laurent’s Alma Vargas to aid Agent Rhodes in his investigation. The audience might remember these two names because they’re actually in the movie far more than the magicians. The trailers don’t show this but Ruffalo and Laurent are the real protagonists of Now You See Me.
What is the result? A movie where magicians are chased by people who have no hope of catching them, all while a big twist waits in the wings.
If movie-goers are hoping to see a lot of magic, they’re going to be disappointed. Save for three shows — two of which consist of exactly one big trick — and a couple of short bursts during chase scenes, Now You See Me contains far less magic than one would expect given the way it has been advertised.
The director, Louis Leterrier (The Transporter and Clash of the Titans), has shot and edited this movie frantically, in a way that will likely make the viewer more nauseous than they’d expect. This works in direct opposition to the movie’s overall slow pace and not the quick, snappy heist movie that many are hoping for.
The action beats are all pathetic — the obligatory fist fight and car chase are almost unwatchable because of the way the film was shot and put together — and there are no characters, save Ruffalo’s, with even a hint of depth or character development — the magicians, for instance, get a single note and play it throughout.
Now You See Me is likely to wind up as one of the worst movies of the blockbuster season. It doesn’t offer a chance to figure out its secrets, it doesn’t have a single character to root for, its action scenes are terribly shot and edited and it’s overlong and relatively boring — especially for the first hour.
Now You See Me functions as a reminder that even with the most talented cast in the world — and there are definitely some big names in this film — a movie can still be very bad.