Now You See Me (better left unseen)
I hope my readers appreciate the bullets that I often take for them. The most recent of these “bullets” (more akin to a rapid machine gun blast) is the new movie “Now You See Me.” The story is so contrived, and conveyed so confusingly, that it delivers absolutely no level of audience satisfaction whatsoever.
The story has to do with a group of four illusionists/magicians who stage elaborate, Vegas like arena shows in which they steal from the rich and give to the poor, their audiences. How their supposedly cash strapped audiences can even afford tickets to their shows is another matter.
“Now You See Me” relies on that old magician’s bromide that magic is all about misdirection. The concept is that magicians get their audiences to look in the wrong directions while they pull off their tricks. Once we accept this basic premise, along with the idea that a magician always has to be several steps ahead of everyone else, the filmmakers seem to feel that they can throw anything at us and we will just accept it because the characters are, after all, illusionists. Uh, no, sorry, you still have to make the events believable, otherwise that means you hold all of the cards and have no responsibility to your audience.
The film continuously tries to justify its preposterous storyline by spitting out exposition that is blatant and frantically paced, usually placed over flashbacks to earlier scenes, to explain how a trick was accomplished. Believe me, for this group to have pulled off what the film claims they did, these illusionists would have needed a gigantic behind the scenes group of dedicated workers. There is no way four people could have done what the film shows them doing, but it’s all about misdirection and being ahead of everyone…I guess.
When a film that is clever and well made pulls back its curtain, the audience reaction is something along the lines of “Oh, wow! So that’s how they did it.” For example, a reaction like this is appropriate for a movie such as “The Prestige” (2006), a much more intriguing story about magicians. In the case of “Now You See Me” my reaction to its revelations was more along the lines of “Oh give me a break.” The explanations are so outrageously contrived that the audience never has a fair chance. As a result, I bought out of the film early on. Not only that, but director Louis Leterrier (who?) uses so many circular, spinning camera shots that I wished I had brought sea sickness pills to the theatre.
Yes, I can blame the director all I want, but what about the cast? I have not done this before in a film critique, but I think that the “Now You See Me” cast should be held accountable for having taken advantage of their fans and admirers. When big names like Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Caine agree to be in a movie, they know that their names will sell tickets. I can only assume that they must have read the script (which, by the way, credits five writers, a sure sign that something is wrong) before agreeing to be in the film. Yet, despite having seen this script, they proceeded to take advantage of their audience by agreeing to be in the movie. They received a sizeable payday, their fans be damned.
“Now You See Me” is playing locally at AMC Kips Bay (570 Second Avenue), AMC Loews Village 7 (63 Third Avenue) and AMC Loews 19 Street East 6 (890 Broadway).
Now You See Me, Director Louis Leterrier, 2013, Summit Entertainment, 116 minutes, rated PG-13