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'Now you see me' a bit entertaining, but a letdown

Jun. 07, 2013 @ 12:00 AM

Director Louis Leterrier ("Transporter" movies, "Clash of the Titans," "The Incredible Hulk") has put together an overly complicated heist movie called "Now You See Me." It reads like a version of "The Problem of Cell 13," the short story that defines the "locked room" genre of mysteries.

This movie's locked room IS the whole world, but actually bounces around the universe of a quartet of magicians who try to pull off...well, something.

Jesse Eisenberg ("Zombieland," "The Social Network," "Adventureland") is the leader of the "Four Horsemen," Daniel Atlas and he leads his group of magicians as they entertain the masses and steal from the rich, sort of a Robin Hoodini...

Mark Ruffalo ("Zodiak," "The Avengers," "The Kids Are All Right") has never been better, because none of his other work was all that good. As FBI Agent Dylan Rhodes, he does an excellent job of portraying an agent that Hoover would have had shot.

No FBI man in the agency's history would ever survive as a "Columbo" style cop, unshaven and rumpled trench coat throughout the film.

The movie tosses in Morgan Freeman ("The Unforgiven," "The Bucket List," "The Shawshank Redemption") as "Geraldo Rivera" style debunker Thaddeus Bradley, simply because his voice always captivates an audience (my family has instructions to go cheap on the funeral, when I die, and spend the majority of the family inheritance on hiring Freeman to read my eulogy).

The remaining three "Horsemen" are a mixed bag, including Woody Harrelson ("Cheers," "Natural Born Killers," "Zombieland") toning down his quirky demeanor (a tiny bit) as Merritt McKinney, a mentalist, with emphasis on the "mental."

The charming Dave Franco ("21 Jump Street," "Warm Bodies," "Fright Night") finally comes out of his "boyfriend" roles and does very well as Jack Wilder, a diminutive illusionist who is too cocky for his own good.

Isla Fisher ("Definitely, Maybe," "The Wedding Crashers," "Home and Away") as magician Henley Reeves, is merely eye candy and should have had a lot more to do in this film.

Further eye candy was inserted in the guise of Melanie Laurent ("Inglourious Basterds," "The Concert") as Interpol operative Alma Dray; she is beautiful here (thanks partly to her French au pair girl accent), and makes a nice love interest to Ruffalo's character.

Although the characters in this movie (there are more, but time and print space limits me) are aching to be explored, but the complicated plot gets most of Leterrier's attention.

This movie is very visual (sometimes too much so), and there is never a dull moment. But, no one seems to be going in a straight line, not the investigators, the instigators, or the peripheral players. It's as though the movie is getting (re)written as it goes along.

There is master showmanship in the magic tricks, and then you think, "That's not possible," and proceed to realize why. Not in the Magic sense, but in the "in real life this would not have happened" sense.

The magicians pull off stuff that would take the entire nation's economy to perform, the FBI overlook gaffs that Encyclopedia Brown would have figured out, and rich guys with the money evidently haven't thought to research and track the things (past & present) that are evident.

I don't know the objective of this movie. If it was to thrill, it didn't. If it was to entertain, it did (somewhat). If it was to enlighten us to the greed of the filthy rich... no.

There are a few nice moments, here, but far too few.

Go see this one quick, otherwise "now you will see it, tomorrow you won't"...

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.