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Article by Teddy Durgin

'Now You See Me' Twists a Potentially Great Movie Away

Right up front, I want you to know that I liked "Now You See Me." I have a feeling my review is going to read as negative. And for that, I apologize. I did like the movie! But let's get to the root of my disappointment right off the bat. It's a simple criticism really. This is NOT the movie that the trailers and commercials advertised! And you know what? I really, REALLY wanted to see THAT movie! This is what the trailers and commercials promised. A quartet of magicians comes together, each specializing in a different form of magic and showmanship. Jesse Eisenberg's J. Daniel Atlas is your classic, slight-of-hand magician. Woody Harrelson's Merritt McKinney is the mind reader/hypnotist extraordinaire. Isla Fisher's Henley Reeves is the Houdini-like escape artist. And Dave Franco's Jack Wilder is the hungry young street magician especially adept at picking pockets, lifting wallets and the like. They come together to use their different styles and techniques to craft great and elaborate bank heists, working the lucrative cash grabs into their Vegas shows and rewarding audience members with showers of bucks from those crimes. The authorities have no idea how they are doing it. And until they do, they can't arrest them. Enter Mark Ruffalo's hard-charging FBI agent Dylan Rhodes and Melaine Laurent's more cerebral Interpol operative Alma Dray, who team up to figure out how the magicians are pulling off their crimes and to bring them down. Now THAT is a movie! More to the point, THAT is the movie that is being promoted in the ads. I was very excited going into the theater to see (I don't mean to belabor this point) THAT movie! And for about a half-hour, it is that movie. But after the first act, Ruffalo adds veteran magician-turned-whistleblower Morgan Freeman to the team, and he promptly explains to Rhodes and Dray exactly how Atlas and Co. were able to steal from a bank in Paris while performing live on a Sin City stage. And then the movie starts being about something else. It starts to be structured like a magic trick, leading up to one final grand reveal that is supposed to make us go "Oooooh!" and "Ahhhh!" I really didn't like that the film rather jarringly shifts focus from the magicians to Rhodes and Dray after that first half-hour. As far as the screenplay is concerned, now you see those four great and quirky characters... now you don't! I swear there was a point in the film where I almost said aloud, "Uh, did 10 or 15 minutes just go missing from this flick?!" After the first act, Atlas, McKinney, Reeves and Wilder cease being actual, independent characters with interesting histories, viewpoints and personality clashes and become pawns within a larger game. They become totally in the service of the final reveal. And while that final reveal is a good one - I personally didn't see it coming - the characters become confined as a result. They can only act and react at the service of the "twist." Discounting that, the film is splendid entertainment. It really is like attending one of those big magic shows in Vegas or Atlantic City. It's flashy, it's fun and director Louis Leterrier is giddy in love with sweeping, swooping camera shots. The movement of the film is so constant and crazy, you'll feel like you just came from a Phillip Seymour Hoffman party afterward. Final Take? I saw a good movie the night I saw "Now You See Me." I just didn't see the movie I had been promised. Darn those slight-of-hand Hollywood tricksters! They get me every time!

"Now You See Me" is rated PG-13 for language, action and some sexual content.

 

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