We all have those people that irritate us for no real reason. You know what I mean, when literally everything they do just makes you irrationally angry. There’s a girl at work who is highly annoying me at the moment and I really don’t understand why. We have a lot in common so should get on. However, every time she opens her mouth I just feel my entire body scrunching up in annoyance. I mean, I guess it’s partly down the fact that I’m an awful person who hates pretty much all other people but I also put the blame partly on her. I mention this because Dave Franco is another of these people. I think it’s because he was in that awful final season of Scrubs but I just prepare for the worst whenever he’s in a film I’m watching. It’s stupid, I know, to hate someone because they played a really annoying character on a TV show I didn’t even really like many years ago. However, I’m just that petty and ridiculous. Which is why I was surprised to find, upon rewatching the first Now You See Me film, that I actually enjoyed Franco’s work. He was funny and got into the spirit of it. Maybe I’m growing as a person? Or maybe I was just realising how stupid this film really is?
Now You See Me always sounded like a great concept. Thieves who use their careers as magicians to carry out their crimes on a very public and very global scale. Now that’s a concept that someone like me could get behind. Like Ocean’s Eleven meets Gob Bluth: who could ask for more? Still, Now You See Me just doesn’t quite live up to it’s massive potential. Now You See Me is the worst kind of magic trick where the performer is so concerned with surprising the audience that the actual process becomes less important than the reveal. Director, Louis Leterrier, is less worried about creating a clever film that tricks the audience into believing what he wants. He just points the camera in the opposite direction or changes history when he needs to.
Still, that’s not to say that getting there isn’t fun. The reason people are such fans of magic is because they want to believe that what they are seeing is real. That isn’t to say you won’t enjoy the film but you must be willing to let go of all reason and logic. This film works best if you are okay to play the fool that it needs you to be. If you’re willing to ignore the clumsy fumbles along the way in order to get to the finale. After all, on a basic level the film is entertaining. It has gathered a great cast together and they all do admirably with what is given to them. It can’t have been easy but they manage to keep it together. There is even some interesting chemistry between the group of magicians and the detective chasing them.
However, Leterrier attempts to pull off too much and throws things together in such a small running time. The result is a confusing and badly edited narrative that doesn’t make as much sense as it should. In order to get everything in that it wanted to certain pesky details have been ignored. You know, silly things like character development, common sense, and a strong narrative. Instead, this film is all about surprising you. It gets to the point that, by the final reveal, so many absurd things have taken place that anything could have been possible. This isn’t a finely crafted tale like Ocean’s Eleven it is something that has been cobbled together with enough distractions to keep you preoccupied.
There are things to like, of course. It might just be me but angry magician Jesse Eisenberg is hot. That pretty much made the film for me. Then there are certain sequences that are visually interesting and it’s fun watching the four magicians do their craft, even if it is in a very Hollywood fake manner. There are some great showdowns between Eisenberg and Mark Ruffalo’s detective and Morgan Freeman’s magic debunker is a joy because, well, Morgan Freeman. Plus, Woody Harrelson seems born to play a big-headed mentalist who likes to swindle people using his skills.
However, that doesn’t make up for the fact that, ultimately, this film doesn’t stick. Remember in The Prestige when Michael Caine told us about the three stages of magic? Well, Now You See Me is a trick missing the all important final stage. In the first stage, the pledge, Leterrier takes the simple yet astounding premise of criminal magicians and makes you believe that’s what you’re seeing. In the second, the turn, that plot gets lost in the middle of an unnecessary revenge plot where so many secrets are revealed that the previous hour or so is almost made redundant. What Now You See Me lacks is the all important final act, the prestige. Leterrier forgets to bring the damn thing back.
Of course, this being magic, you want to believe and, if you’re like me, you’ll let the ridiculous nature of the film wash over you. Instead, you’ll be happy to get swept away with the drama and energy on display. You will purposefully ignore what you need to and you’ll take someone else’s word on something that makes absolutely not sense. Somehow, Leterrier manages to convince you that this technically terrible film is actually better than it is. I’m think what I’m saying is, Now You See Me may just be the greatest magic trick of all time.