“Now You See Me”, which breaks into theaters on May 31, combines a caper film with the illusion and drama of magic, and the action of a cat-and-mouse showdown between criminals and the law. Elite illusionists, The Four Horsemen, square-off against a dedicated team of FBI agents after pulling of a series of heists during their live performances.
Yes, there are a lot of elements in play, but, as we are frequently reminded by the characters on screen, misdirection is the foundation of magic. “Now You See Me” is an imperfect film; at times underwhelming, at times over the top, but it makes only one demand of the audience in exchange for what is ultimately an entertaining exercise: surrender to the illusion.
The greatest asset of “Now You See Me” is a cast comprised of strong performers with palpable chemistry. The Four Horsemen are made up of Jesse Eisenberg as J. Daniel Atlas; a cocky Criss Angel type, Isla Fisher as Henley Reeves; a fiery escapist, Woody Harrelson as Merritt McKinney; a wise-cracking mentalist and Dave Franco as Jack Wilder; a streetwise master of sleight-of-hand.
The four of them play well off of each other, but the group dynamic doesn’t deny each of the Horseman the chance at a unique personality. Eisenberg returns somewhat to a Zuckerbergian attitude as Atlas, but he plays the egomaniacal genius so well that it doesn’t get old. Harrelson, meanwhile, provides his own personal brand of comic relief, to great effect.
Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent form the face of law enforcement in the film, while Morgan Freeman steals scenes as a sage wild-card who went from being a career magician to a television personality who debunks magicians and reveals the secrets of the trade.
The whole affair may be well beyond belief, but the illusion is a pleasant amusement, and the mystery an enjoyable one to unravel.