After the abominable Greek tragedy that was 2010’s big money rehash Clash of the Titans, director Louis Leterrier returns with an all-star cast for magician-based crime thriller Now You See Me (2013); a film that delivers all the entertainment and spectacle of a David Copperfield Christmas Special, but is ultimately let down by a flaky third act and a preposterous plot twist. Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco are ‘The Four Horsemen’, a group of jobbing magicians who were brought together a year ago by a mystery benefactor and transformed into the hottest magic act to hits Las Vegas in years.
Not only do the Horsemen dazzle the crowds with their card tricks and mind-reading – they also perform an illusion which involves them stealing millions of Euros from a Paris bank vault and showering the rapturous audience with the proceeds. The thing is, it’s not actually an illusion. The cash has really been stolen, and it’s up to terminally-confused FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) to work out how they committed the robbery. Now You See Me’s first hour is fun and frantic, full of witty dialogue and some spectacular slight of hand.
The Horsemen successfully double-cross their high-rolling sponsor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) whilst trying to stay one step ahead of professional magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) – and you’re behind them all way. Unfortunately, after their second grand illusion, you realise it’s all largely smoke and mirrors. Caine and Morgan are sleepwalking, the magicians are fairly charmless and just how and why they’re pulling off these heists is put on the back-burner as Leterrier mysteriously decides to focus on Ruffalo’s chemistry-free romance with a French member of Interpol (Inglorious Basterds’ Mélanie Laurent).
Despite the niggling flaws and throwaway scenes, the promise of a startling climax with a big reveal keeps you interested. Yet, when that moment comes, it’s ridiculous to the point of insulting and manages to degrade all of the good work done by the filmmakers up until then. Now You See Me will dazzle you at first and some will enjoy the show all the way to the final twist, but by the time the credits roll, you’ll feel like Leterrier and his screenwriters ran out of top hats and rabbits and decided to saw their audiences brains in half.