Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Mélanie Laurent, Mark Ruffalo, and Dave Franco in Now You See Me (2013)

NOW YOU SEE ME (director: Louis Leterrier; screenwriters: Ed Solomon/Boaz Yakin/Edward Ricourt/story by Boaz Yakin & Edward Ricourt; cinematographers: Larry Fong/Mitchell Amundsen; editors: Robert Leighton/Vincent Tabaillon; music: Brian Tyler; cast: Jesse Eisenberg (J. Daniel Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt McKinney), Mélanie Laurent (Alma Dray), Isla Fisher (Henley Reeves), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Common (Evans), Michael J. Kelly (Agent Fuller), José Garcia (Etienne Forcier, hypnotized Las Vegas audience member), Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), David Warshofsky (Cowan); Runtime: 116; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Alex Kurtzman/Roberto Orci/Bobby Cohen; Summit release; 2013)
About as thrilling as watching a movie about a white rabbit come out of a magician’s hat.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

French-born turned Hollywood director Louis Leterrier (“Clash of the Titans“/”The Incredible Hulk“/”The Transporter“) gets the magic show off to a good start, but soon the magic fades and the movie can’t find a way from disappearing into emptiness. Its mantra is ‘the closer you look, the less you see.‘ The contrived script by Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt provides a good magic show for the pic’s opening sequence or two but then the harebrained screenplay kicks in, and the acting becomes rote and the poorly constructed conclusion leaves us with an unimpressive magical ending.

Four street magician hustlers–arrogant card-sharp trickster, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), the mean-spirited hypnotist/mentalist, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), escape artist, Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and, card-thrower, pickpocket, Jack Wilder (Dave Franco)–receive Tarot card invites to meet in a dumpy Manhattan loft apartment and a mysterious sponsor has them form a magic act together called The Four Horseman and also plans out their magical acts. Their showbiz benefactor is the egotistical insurance tycoon Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). After a year of working together with great success, the super-group in their Las Vegas stage performance at the MGM Grand rob a Paris bank through the teleportation of a hypnotized audience member and have the money rain down on the audience. This brings in Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), the lead FBI investigator, and he’s helped by the Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent), as they question the magicians at the FBI headquarters but release them for lack of evidence.

Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is a media personality and lifetime debunker of magic fakery, who handsomely profits by selling DVDs of the tricks used by the performers. He gets involved with the heists and eagerly tells us throughout the film that magic is all about misdirection and being at least one step ahead of the audience.

The contrived facile story only gets worse as it chugs along with a dry explanation of the magic performed, seemingly at every magical turn. The Ruffalo character gets overworked into an agitated stage because the magicians are always a step ahead, while the scam artist magicians turned into Robin Hood magicians don’t know who they’re working for but are thrilled they are getting the public’s attention and making fools of the cops by playing cat and mouse games with them. In New Orleans, The Four Horsemen find a way to divest the oily Tressler of over 140 million dollars and place the money into the accounts of victims of Hurricane Katrina who were screwed by Tressler’s insurance company. In their last stage act in the Big Apple, the group rob the vault of a corrupt NYC company that manufactures chintzy vaults.

The surprise ending, revealing the identity of the mysterious sponsor of the group and the reasons why for these heists, is about as thrilling as watching a movie about a white rabbit come out of a magician’s hat. The only thing worth seeing in this flick is the exit sign. All the sleight-of-hand tricks performed lacked the magical qualities that make all good films magical.