“The more you look, the less you see” is something we are told on multiple occasions by a big-headed Jesse Eisenburg, one of the “Four Horsemen” mysteriously selected to perform together at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This is a fitting mantra to Louis Leterrier’s film, which is loaded with stylish editing and CGI trickery, yet whose plot can be as elusive as a hat-dwelling rabbit.
A brilliant opening sequence introduces Eisenburg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco and Isla Fisher, showcasing each of the tricksters’ talents before they collaborate for one night only to rob a Paris bank from their Vegas show. When the highly watchable team of Mark Ruffalo’s FBI agent and Morgan Freeman’s magician debunker give chase, we are soon promised a better trickster-based flick than The Prestige.
Unfortunately, the film becomes lost somewhere along the way in its need to dazzle the audience, as sympathy for its characters is sacrificed for nonsensical plot twists and their unconvincing explanations. It therefore becomes harder to laugh at the Horsemen’s abrasively arrogant banter, and harder to care about Ruffalo’s predictable relationship with Mélanie Laurent. Throw in the relentlessly pounding heist score and excessive camera swooping, and the third act is left a flashing mess of plot holes, rather than the coolly-executed finale it ought to be.
But this is not to say there isn’t any fun to be had beforehand. The Transporter director puts his action background to good use with some titillating chase scenes, which refreshingly include the chucking of playing cards rather than the usual gunfire. When it comes to the witty exchanges, the dialogue is well-honed (albeit a little smug), while a Morgan Freeman/Michael Caine showdown is always worth a watch.
For a movie all about subtlety, this is not Leterrier’s strong suit. CG is used as a paltry substitute for good old sleight-of-hand, while abrupt rug-pulling squanders the film’s fun concept. Though it has its high points, Now You See Me is less “prepare to be amazed” than “prepare to feel slightly let down”.