With Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman. Written by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt. Directed by Louis Leterrier. Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content, 116 minutes.
At the start of the often captivating story that is NOW YOU SEE ME, we’re introduced to four damn good magicians: One (Jesse Eisenberg) does large-scale card tricks; another (Woody Harrelson) is a crooked mentalist; the next (Dave Franco) bends spoons, and picks pockets; the last (Isla Fisher) is into daredevil escapes. Two of them know each other, the rest know of each other. All of them are into what magic is all about: misdirection.
They’re all mysteriously brought together by an unknown, unseen person, who has the idea of turning them into magic’s next big thing … along with an additional plan that’s not even revealed to them. A year goes by and they are, indeed, ready to razzle and dazzle at the MGM Grand in Vegas when, at their first show, they announce that they’re going to rob a bank … in Paris … from the stage in Vegas. And then they do. And before you can say (fill in your favorite magic expression), an FBI agent (Mark Ruffalo) and an Interpol agent (Melanie Laurent) are on the case, and the quartet is in shackled custody.
But this isn’t a film about how a jail can’t hold these angry birds; it’s about how the cops can’t actually pin anything on them. Yes, a boatload of money has disappeared from a bank in France, but our unlikely heroes don’t have it. In fact, it looks like they gave it all away, in a gigantic flutter of Euros, to their audience.
Like a good magician, the film tells us where it’s going next, and we all happily and hungrily go right along with it. There’s talk of a second show, in New Orleans, and of a second heist attached to it. There’s even talk of a third one, in New York City, with the stakes getting higher every time.
But first, there are more characters to get involved. Morgan Freeman plays a debunker of magic, a man who’s made a name for himself on TV by being a disbeliever, and by showing people how magicians do what they do. So you just know that the FBI and Interpol agents are going to be interested in him, or at least make him a person of interest.
There’s also Michael Caine, playing the wealthy benefactor who sees a way to make lots more money by making the four magicians stars. So it goes something like this: Caine is trying to build them up, Freeman is trying to tear them down, the cops are trying to get them.
It turns out being a story of the cats going after the mice, but in this case, the mice are very cat-like. The film moves along at a rapid clip, taking time out for some wild action and some great gags. It only sputters right near the end, when the script offers up too much of an explanation about what’s gone down. Or maybe there’s not enough explanation. Or maybe, at the very end, and only at the end, it suffers from a bit of misdirection.•••