Thursday, May 30, 2013

All flash and no substance, but who cares? Entertaining and feel-good movie!

The closer you look, the less you see. A particular catchphrase uttered and repeated by different characters throughout the movie Now You See Me. An apt description for this movie would be: The closer you look, the less there is. I am not saying it is a bad thing. I'm just calling it as I see it.

The story goes: Four street magicians are approached by a mysterious hooded figure. A year later, they have banded together and calling themselves The Four Horseman, headline an act in Las Vegas wherein they proceeded to shower the audience with millions of Euros stolen purportedly in real time from a bank in France. This sets the FBI and Interpol on their tails as the group attempts to pull similar stunts in New Orleans and New York.

Jesse Eisenberg plays Daniel Atlas, the leader of the Four Horsemen. Here Einsenberg basically reprises his role as Mark Zuckerberg from The Social Network, if Zuckerberg were ever inclined to become a magician. Woody Harrison here plays a scene-stealing mentalist Merritt Osbourne. The lovely Isla Fisher plays sex-vixen escape artist Henley Reeves. Dave Franco (younger brother of James Franco) plays Jack Wilder, whose role is basically a version of Matt Damon's character Linus Caldwell from the Ocean series; a young musician who is overeager for his turn to lead; he even gets his own action hero moment in the third act of the movie with some great fight scenes and even a car chase that, who knows, might just land him a (Matt Damon) Jason Bourne-like role in the near future.

Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman reunite here from their Dark Knight Trilogy Days, the former playing swarmy millionaire Arthur Tressler who sponsors the Four Horsemen and the latter as former magician turned magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley who reveals the secrets behind a magician's tricks. These two are superb as always, even in a scene where they confront each other with a silly interplay involving a voodoo doll.

Mark Ruffalo as FBI agent Dylan Rhode and Melanie Laurent as Interpol agent round up the rest of the principle cast as the lead investigators in charge of the case to apprehend the Four Horsemen and bring them to justice. Ruffalo does curmudgeon and baffled really well while the talented Laurent (from Inglorious Basterds) here is unfortunately made to spout several silly lines throughout the film such as asking Ruffalo to "take a leap of faith", all the while spotting a perfectly straight face. The contrived romance between these two characters unfortunately remains one of the weak points of the movie as it never feels truly believable and merely tacked to fulfill the "romance" part of the film.

The plot has superficial overtones of the Occupy Wall Street movement; in one act, the magicians empty the bank account of a crooked multimillionaire and then proceed to distribute the wealth amongst the magicians' audience, who receive their unexpected largess with utter delight. The real movie audience similarly takes great delight in rooting for these Robin Hood-like- characters as they successfully outwit the law every step of the way.

For me, the best parts of the movie were seeing the outlandish magician acts being performed and then later on finding out how they were accomplished via Bradley's reveal. I also vastly enjoyed the brilliant performances turned in by all four of the Horsemen cast, even if their back stories are never sufficiently or fully revealed to the audience's satisfaction.

Although expository clues interspersed throughout the movie heavily hints that the motives behind the heists, masterminded by the mysterious hooded figure and carried out by the Four Horsemen, are less than magnanimous, the final reveal and plot twist at the end of the movie does leave you reeling a bit and going "Huh" since you would never have actually saw that coming. Still, the revelation, no matter how preposterous, does tie up the whole movie into one somewhat neat pretty package. So what if the neat pretty package is nice to look at but has nothing more than fluffy animal balloons stuffed in it? My friend and I came out of the movie thoroughly entertained by this feel-good movie. I mean, how often do you, as one of the 99%, get to see a movie where the 1-percenters receive their comeuppance, especially by a conservative Hollywood industry that even very obviously denigrates the Occupy Movement in the 2012 The Dark Knight Rises?

I have to say that even coming with what little substance that the movie has, I enjoyed this film far more than I did summer blockbuster tentpoles Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness, with even consummate actors like Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man and Benedict Cumberbatch as the villain in Star Trek Into Darkness unable to lift these movies from their ridiculous plot-hole-ridden storylines. It is not to say that Now You See Me does not have plot holes of its own; it does, but unlike Iron Man 3 and Star Trek Into Darkness, this movie moves so breezily along that you don't really notice them, which is more than I can say for the glaring plot holes practically shouting at me while I was watching the former two films.

So go see Now You See Me if you want to have a rollicking good time at the movies this summer.

3 and a half stars out of 5 stars for me.

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