Magic is a lovely concept, because there is no such thing as magic. It’s an idea that’s been painstakingly put together by illusion and sleight of hand, practiced by many, mastered by few. I myself have learnt some sleight of hand, mostly with cards and coins. It’s great fun, but really difficult to pull off convincingly. I know the amount of skill, speed, and effort that goes into perfecting tricks, and when I see David Blaine or Brad Christian perform a miraculous card trick, I can appreciate it.
What I cannot appreciate is a bunch of people jumping off a building and disintegrating into a cloud of money, or turning a poor rabbit into a top hat. As awesome as magic is, no one — and I mean no one — can do such things. Now You See Me, a movie all about magic, magicians, con men, and misdirection, is as dull, senseless, predictable, and uninteresting as a steamroller flattening tar. It takes the magic of magic and downgrades it to a series of unbelievable visual effects sequences that hope, beyond hope, to impress us.
Take the opening montage as an example. We are introduced to four magicians (well, one sleight-of-hander, one escape artist, one mind reader, and one con artist) over a period of four days, in four different cities across the States. Each scene works as an introduction, and I’m sure they are meant to showcase the masterful skill of each person, but the tricks they perform are so basic that watching them thirty years ago might have gotten a clap or two out of me. The first trick we see involves spotting a card in the deck while the magician flips through it rapidly. The hot girl knows the card. We know the card. The electricians in the tall building behind them know the card as well. Upon some sort of command, they light up the windows of the building to form a massive seven of diamonds. The crowd goes nuts. If that doesn’t boggle your mind, I don’t know what will.
These four masters of deception band together at the behest of an anonymous entity to form The Four Horsemen, a quartet that becomes very popular performing illusions that involve stealing, robbing, and getting stupid audience members to read out their bank balances to the entire crowd. They are also four of the most obnoxious people you will ever meet, on screen, or in person. They do not possess likable or redeeming qualities. I will not spoil the movie’s twist, but the fact that they emerge unscathed is a sin against all things humane.
No one in the movie has any form of intelligence; not the Horsemen, not Morgan Freeman’s character, or Michael Caine’s, or Mark Ruffalo’s, or Melanie Laurent’s, or any of the hundreds of people who enjoy going to one of these magic shows. The Horsemen are essentially big time thieves; they use magic and illusion to stage crimes where they steal millions of dollars from wherever they steal millions of dollars from. The FBI and Interpol are out to get them, but because they’re not magicians, they’re always one or two steps behind. They begin this cat and mouse chase with The Horsemen that gets a lot of airtime as America’s new favourite reality TV programme. Everyone in the country raves about the quartet; they love them. They cheer and applaud and attend all their shows as if they were their last. Their collective thought is: “Screw law and order! We want these bad guys, who are blatantly stealing, to win!”. And then when all the dust settles, the movie springs a big twist on us.
I have sat through poor movies before, and I have sat through boring ones. The poor and boring ones usually have something of value, hidden somewhere in their bowels, that allow me to stomach them. Now You See Me is the first movie in a really long time that had me tossing and turning in my chair out of frustration, simply because there is nothing of value anywhere in it. It is chockablock with cliche, incompetent movie characters, a senseless plot, dumb exchanges of dialogue, and no magic. Here, I’ll end with this: The FBI guy, Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo) has been chasing one of the Horsemen through back alleys. The Horseman hops into a cop car and speeds off around a corner. The Interpol lady (Melanie Laurent) pulls up in a hunky BMW and picks Rhodes up, undoubtedly to begin what is to be a grand car chase. The car they are chasing has disappeared around the corner, and should be miles ahead of them by now, but instead of zooming off after it, the Interpol lady decides it’s time to give Rhodes a lecture about manners. If that isn’t stupid enough, when they finally do hit the gas, they’ve somehow leapt through time and space and landed right on their target’s heels. True magic does exist.
Best Moment | No.
Worst Moment | All.