Now You See Me (2013) — All flash and flourish

“The closer you think you are, the less you’ll actually see.”

Justin’s rating: Is this your card? How about your movie?

Justin’s review: There’s a certain delight in being invited to hang out with specialists who don’t mind explaining to — or showing — you how they do their unusual feats. Fans of The Prestige and Sneakers will feel well at home in the company of Now You See Me, even if this movie isn’t quite as dazzling in the end as you’re hoping it will be.

Four talented street magicians — Danny (Jesse Eisenberg), Merrit (Woody Harrelson), Henley (Isla Fisher), and Jack (Dave Franco) — are assembled together by an unknown benefactor for some sort of great plan. A year flashes by after the opening credits, and we’re seeing them taking the stage in Vegas under the collective name of the Four Horsemen. As a finale of their act, they seemingly steal millions of Euros from a French bank and redistribute it to the crowd.

This gets the attention of the FBI, which assigns Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) to figure out how they accomplished the crime and build a case against them. But Rhodes quickly realizes that there’s nothing more frustrating than trying to pin down people skilled in the art of deception, manipulation, and theft. He then turns to an ex-magician, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who serves the role of the guy who is willing to spoil how the trick is done… if he’s there to see it.

What follows is a rather fast-paced two hours of glamour, showmanship, and mystery as the Horsemen continue to put on performances while committing crimes and the FBI desperately attempts to catch them in the act. But everything is suspect, because we don’t really get to see the details of the magicians’ plan nor have any character that clearly lays out everything for us. It’s a whole lot of cat-and-dog scrambling, with each proclamation by the FBI that it’s finally ahead of the Horsemen only to find themselves six steps behind.

Other than the fact that every time that Jesse Eisenberg talks I feel an irresistible urge to slap him with a large trout, the only problem I have with this movie is that it starts straining to stick the landing in the third act. I mean, I wasn’t super-disappointed or anything, but I felt the earlier reveals and performances were a whole lot more interesting than how all of this concludes.

That said, this film is packed with likable, non-trout-slappy performances, a breathless pace, and a duel between a cop and a magician (the latter who uses playing cards and flash-paper bombs to great effect). It’s a fun “shut off your brain and enjoy the ride” journey, even if the rabbit dies in the hat along the way.

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