Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas
Mark Ruffalo as Dylan Rhodes
Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney
Isla Fisher as Henley Reeves
Dave Franco as Jack Wilder
Mélanie Laurent as Alma Dray
Morgan Freeman as Thaddeus Bradley
Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler
Jessica Lindsey as Hermia
Caitriona Balfe as Jasmine Trassler
Michael Kelly as Agent Fuller
Common as Evans
Stephanie Honore as Atlas Groupie
David Warshofsky as Cowan
Laura Cayouette as Hypnotized Woman
Directed by Louis Leterrier
Four magicians from different walks of life with different skill sets--J. Daniel Atlas, Merritt McKinney, Henley Reeves and Jack Wilder--are brought together as the Four Horsemen to stage elaborate magic shows together. For their first big show in Las Vegas, they send an audience member to a bank vault in Paris, stealing all its contents and distributing it to the audience. This gets the attention of both the FBI and Interpol in the forms of agents Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) who work with a magic debunker named Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) to put a stop to the Horsemen's robberies.
"Now You See Me" isn't the first movie of the year involving magic, although it is the one that treats the craft far more reverentially than movies like "Oz The Great and Powerful" and "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone," which is definitely a plus for what ends up being a twisty crime-thriller that doesn't feel like your typical summer movie fare.
After introducing each of the magicians that would make up the Four Horsemen, we're right into their big show in Vegas where they seemingly rob a bank vault and are immediately arrested afterwards at which time they first encounter Mark Ruffalo's FBI agent Dylan Rhodes, a tough by-the-books G-man who doesn't believe in the magic they're selling.
What might be surprising to some is how much of the movie's focus is then transferred to Ruffalo's character and his attempt to stop the Horsemen, which is fine since Ruffalo is very good in this role. But those going into the movie thinking they're watching a movie about magician thieves may start wondering where the stars of the movie are at times, since they're gone for large chunks of the movie. Because of this, we never spend enough time learning much about their characters or relations off-stage and we don't really get a sense of their personalities when not performing. On stage, Eisenberg shows off a lot more confidence than we've seen from him in the past, while Harrelson and Franco add a lighter and more humorous touch to their magic and Fisher gives her character just the right amount of sass and sex appeal – her solo escape in the beginning is better than anything she does with the group though. Other than the intro, their magic shows and a couple of chases, we don't really see the actual Horsemen that much, which means we leave the movie not really knowing much about them.
Instead, we learn more about their benefactor Arthur Tressler, played by Michael Caine, and the man trying to debunk their magic to help the FBI, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman). Few will need to be reminded what fine actors they are and their few scenes together are worth the price of admission even though it adds to the talkie nature of the film. As such, more time is spent building the relationship between Ruffalo and Laurent's characters, which is fine, except that a movie about FBI agents chasing after magicians is not nearly as interesting as the magicians themselves.
Visually, the film has a great sense of style with enough moments where you're not sure if they're doing tricks for real or enhancing them with CG, although there isn't a ton of action in the movie, mostly a couple chase sequences and a cool magic-enhanced fight between Ruffalo and Franco. It's a surprisingly subdued film from a director whose specialty has been doing big action set pieces, but it's nice to have a movie where the action isn't too over the top as well.
Things do start to come together at the end as things are explained, although there's one too many twists thrown in and at least one of them that might not feel justified, especially if you were to go back and rewatch the movie from the beginning and try to assemble the pieces. As with many movies that try to be clever, there's essentially too many ideas at play and whenever it starts to deal with "The Eye," a legendary group of magicians that the Horsemen are trying to join, the story starts to go off the rails and loses any sense of reality.
The Bottom Line:
"Now You See Me" seems far too clever to be a summer release and while it doesn't quite achieve the cleverness of "The Prestige"--nor does its ending deliver quite the same impact--those who enjoy fun heist movies should appreciate how unique this one is from others.