Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco are four talented, yet ordinary, magicians. Drawn together by an unknown mastermind, however, they become “The Four Horsemen,” an unstoppable force of magic and bravado with a bigger trick up their sleeves than anyone can imagine.
Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) is something of a David Blaine – a street performer with a massive ego and rabid fanbase. Harrelson does his best Shawn Spencer as Merritt McKinney, a once famous psychic and hypnotist. Henley Reeves (Fisher) is Houdini with a sick sense of humor, and Jack Wilder (Franco) is a street smart con man who uses magic tricks and sleight of hand dexterity to his advantage. Securing the funds from investor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), the four performers pool their talents into a unique show with a shadowy endgame.
When the first performance of The Four Horsemen results in them managing to rob a French bank – while in Vegas – and distributing the very real money to their audience, the attentions of the FBI and Interpol are both immediately caught. Investigators from the two agencies Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent) are soon hot (or not so hot) on the trail of these magical masterminds. Magic trick debunker and ex-magician Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is also on the case, trying to solve the mystery and make a pretty penny from doing so.
Whenever a movie centers around magic and illusions it runs the risk of losing some of the affect. We’re so used to seeing movie magic that magic in a movie doesn’t seem that special. Thankfully there are only a few instances where the use of CG is painfully obvious. Much of the time the illusions and tricks on screen feel very grounded and realistic, if a bit incredible.
The cast here is certainly an eclectic bunch, but it works. The four leads attack their roles with gusto, playing up the roles of characters who know they’re always in control and two steps ahead of their audience. I kept expecting Ruffalo to burst into a fit of rage, though, as he was played for the fool more than once in his efforts to chase down the apparent criminals. Blame Marvel for that. In what seems to be an unfortunate trend, Morgan Freeman is once again woefully underused. It’s not that his character isn’t important, but he just doesn’t get much memorable screen time. I wouldn’t encourage a role to be needlessly expanded to take advantage of a certain actor, but neither do I condone filling a small role with a big name to put on the poster. Freeman does make some great facial expressions though, especially at the end.
The film does a great job of keeping you guessing throughout, fulfilling the oft mentioned magical requirements of misdirection and being ahead of the game. It’s a heist flick wrapped in a mystery and drenched with colorful magic. This being a movie with explanations, though, we are privy to what is behind the curtain on a number of occasions which is both interesting and disappointing as it both highlights the impressive nature and ingenuity of what is happening, but at the same time constantly reminds us that some things are not as as amazing as they appear.
This is the type of movie where the payoff at the end, the grand finale, is of utmost importance. It doesn’t disappoint in that department – prepare for you mind to be blown. It’s a little bit too unexpected though, and it left me wondering about the credibility and possibility of the rest of the movie once the cat was out of the bag. Some things just don’t seem to make sense.
In the end, this is an action packed, visually intense, mentally fun movie with a great cast and interesting plot. It’s a winning combination any way you look at it, even if it’s not perfect.
My Rating: Four out of Five Hats
Mrs. Hamster Says:
“I enjoyed it and the twist ending makes me want to go back and watch it from the beginning again.”
Now You See Me appears in 2,800 theaters, May 31