Main cast: Jesse Eisenberg (J Daniel “Danny” Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt McKinney), Isla Fisher (Henley Reeves), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Mélanie Laurent (Alma Dray), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), and Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler)
Director: Louis Leterrier
Ooh, a Mission: Impossible-style movie with magicians. We’re talking about the TV series, rather than movie versions of Mission: Impossible, by the way. I think I can like Now You See Me, despite the fact that it has the reliably obnoxious and irritating Jesse Eisenberg, who looks and acts like Andy Samberg’s more obnoxious brother, at the front and center. Oh the other hand, ooh, there’s also Mark Ruffalo, so I suppose it’s 50-50 hot versus fug.
Four magicians get a card. J Daniel Atlas, the obnoxious one that speaks like he’s an idiot train hurtling at full speed into hell, is some David Blaine-wannabe who does trick to impress ladies and lasts 3 minutes in bed. Henley Reeves is his former assistant and girlfriend who has since struck out become an escape artist. Merritt McKinney is a ‘mentalist’ (basically a hypnotist and mind reader) who tries to get his life back together after his manager-cum-brother fled with his money and the IRS did the rest, by basically blackmailing his tricks with embarrassing things he’s gleaned from their mind. Finally, Jack Wilder is a pickpocket who pretends to blunder through his tricks only to lure unsuspecting tricks close enough for him to take their wallets and purses.
The cards must mean something, because these four are soon working together as the Four Horsemen in a show funded by their benefactor Arthur Tressler, an insurance magnate, and somehow manages to empty an entire French bank vault during one of their acts. Our FBI agent Dylan Rhodes and the Interpol lady Alma Dray are on the scene to nab these four, but with no evidence or clue to be found, they may have to consult Thaddeus Bradley, a former magician who now makes a career of debunking and exposing other magicians’ tricks.
Okay, I may not voluntarily subject myself to Jesse Eisenberg under any circumstance, but I made an exception this time because Now You See Me is such fun. It’s stylish, slick, and full of silly over the top twists and turns that are just perfect for this kind of show. The movie captures the mystique of the magic show – we all know there must be some trick involved, but we are usually entertained when the performer is good. and there is a nice parallel here, as this movie entertains while at the same time exposing how these people do their tricks.
The cast is all fine. Okay, there is that Eisenberg factor, but Daniel Atlas is created to be this insufferable arrogant freak so the actor is not exactly playing out of role and making a statement about not being typecast into a certain role. Therefore, he will do. Isla Fisher and Woody Harrelson are appropriately theatrical when the need arises, although something about Ms Fisher’s voice makes me feel that she’s channeling a bit too much squeaky sweetness to play the role of that sexy chick on stage. Dave Franco has a nice smile, and he gives his role of the most junior member of the team an earnesty that is charming.
But Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent are absolutely adorable together in the classic hotheaded dude and cool-headed lady partnering, and I love how she is actually a significant contributor to the whole thing instead of just some hot lady in a movie. Indeed, the movie provides nicely meaty roles for the female cast – they are not just eye candy here. Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are not breaking any new grounds in their roles here, but they, especially Mr Freeman, chew scenery and play off the rest of the cast amazingly.
Sure, the twists and turns can get quite ridiculous as the movie progresses, but hey, I am entertained a lot, and that is all that matters in the end.