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Now You See Me puts the fun back in being fooled. Director Louis Leterrier and writers Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin and Edward Ricourt gift wrap 'magic' in an entertaining heist package that keeps you guessing.
Four magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco) are brought together by a mysterious figure and become the most famous magical quartet in the world - The Four Horsemen. What's their signature trick? Robbing a Parisian bank in front of their live Las Vegas audience, without leaving the stage. When they're seemingly successful FBI and Interpol agents Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and  Dray (Mélanie Laurent) are assigned to investigate. Unfortunately they're two steps behind the illusive deceptions contending with the vulturous trick revealing Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) obstructing their investigation to shed light on the illusions for cash.
The main quartet work tremendously together, especially Zombieland co stars Harrelson and Eisenberg. Although they are at the centre of the film their heavy lifting comes in the introduction of the characters. The scripting is like being in the middle of dominoes falling. Solomon, Yakin and Ricourt are so precise with what you're seeing, and when that you just get to revel in a clever premise working. Harrelson brings the charm and cheek to Merritt McKinney the failed hypnotist/mentalist, turned con man. There are a number of wonderful scenes where he cheekily extracts information from marks or investigators that just make you cackle. Eisenberg effortlessly conveys an air of elitism whilst being fiercely ambitious as young 'gun' J. Daniel Atlas. Fisher is Atlas' feisty former assistant turned magician that gets to let the air out of his balloon, so to speak. Franco's hustler/admirer of Atlas utilising his natural illusive skills for petty crime instead of magic. His character is a bit of a passenger but his natural charm masks that.
Ruffalo gets to go contemporary Pacino and chew some scenery as the larger than life cop Rhodes. Michael Caine (the voice of Nolan's The Prestige) graces the cast with his magical, misdirection pedigree — and accent. While Morgan Freeman's Bradley is like the chorus in a classical greek play, on the audience's side, smugly blowing away the illusive haze around the Horsemen.
Leterrier really puts on a show here. Unlike his CGI feasts The Incredible Hulk and Clash of the Titans he's required to ground the physical reality and really efficiently create an ensemble of characters that you're invested in. The showmanship is large, the trickery is deft - it's the best film this reviewer's seen his name attached to.
Unfortunately the ending does not, as Gandalf would say, arrive precisely where it means to. Instead it feels like there's a desire to conclude instead of to disappear. The subplot of romantic tension between Ruffalo and Laurent doesn't feel like it's fully realised and feels cumbersome. That being said, they are tiny criticisms in this grand illusion.

 

While there are some generic tropes that figuratively reveal the wires on Leterrier's cinematic misdirection; Now You See Me is a  thoroughly entertaining escape...from a water tank, with its hands tied.

[rating=3] and a half
Blake Howard - follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to the audio review on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.

 

Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Ed Solomon and Boaz Yakin (Screenplay and Story) & Edward Ricourt (Screenplay and Story)
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, Michael Caine, Mélanie Laurent and Morgan Freeman
NOW YOU SEE ME is released in Australia on 8 August 2013
NOW YOU SEE ME is distributed by Hopscotch Films

Blake Howard is a writer, a podcaster, the editor-in-chief & co-founder of Australian film blog Graffiti With Punctuation. Beginning his criticism APPRENTICESHIP as co-host of That Movie Show 2UE, Blake is now a member of the prestigious Online Film Critic Society, sways the Tomato Meter with Rotten Tomatoes approved reviews. See his articulated words and shrieks (mostly) here at Graffitiwithpunctuation.com and with DarkHorizons.com & 2SER Sydney weekly on Gaggle of Geeks.