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Now You See Me (2013)
Blu-ray Disc Released: 9/3/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 9/2/2013
I've never been a big fan of magicians. Now, like most people, I've seen magicians perform on television, and I've found it mildly interesting, but never enough to seek it out and I didn't have a magic kit when I was a kid. (And if I were ever in Vegas for pleasure, as opposed to business, and had free time, I wouldn't go to see a magician perform.) During my lifetime, performers such as Doug Henning, David Copperfield, and Criss Angel have all been popular, but it simply wasn't my thing. Given that, I wasn't expecting much from a movie about a group of magicians, so if Now You See Me was going to win me over, it would have to have some good tricks up its sleeve.
Now You See Me opens by introducing us to four different performers of magic. J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is a well-known street magician who incorporates high-rise building into his act. Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is a once famous mesmerist who has taken to working restaurants. Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher) does an escape act in a Los Angeles nightclub. Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is a sleight-of-hand guy, who actually does more work as a pickpocket. All four of these individuals receive a tarot card which invites them to New York. One year later, the quartet have become The Four Horsemen and they are headlining a show in Las Vegas, financed by Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). For the finale of their big show, the group appears to transfer the money from a bank in Paris to the stage in Vegas. They are immediately arrested and questioned by FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and Interpol agent Alma Dray (Melanie Laurent), but, as no one can figure out how they did it, they are released. As The Four Horsemen move on to their next show, Rhodes consults Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a former magician who now debunks illusionists. When the Horsemen commit another bizarre crime, Rhodes must not only try and figure out where they will strike next, but how they are doing it.
Now You See Me is one of the odder films I've seen recently for one reason -- I enjoyed it, but I'm not sure why. This will make the movie somewhat difficult to review. Allow me to begin by discussing the things I didn't like about the movie. First of all, someone needs to call Director Louis Leterrier and tell him that Michael Bay wants all of his moves back. I've always been a fan of a moving camera, but the camera is rarely still here, and Leterrier repeats Bay's signature "revolving around characters while looking up at them" shot over and over again. The camera moves so much during the performances, especially the first one, that it's difficult to get a handle on how the show is staged. When this is done, contact composer Brian Tyler and tell him that every scene isn't the end of the movie. A good score is like good acting, it should seamless and it should blend in with the rest of the movie. Tyler's bombastic musical choices hit you in the fact and one can't help but notice that the music is A) really loud, and B) really loud at times when it shouldn't be.
Along with these technical issues, there are problems with the story. It's obvious that the Horsemen's initial performance is meant to confuse the viewer. However, even when the film was over, I still wasn't sure exactly what had happened due to the fact that the trick is so elaborate, the audience is expected to take a huge leap of faith. If you aren't willing to suspend disbelief and simply go with the movie at that point, then Now You See Me will be lost to you. The story is further muddled when one takes a closer look at the Horsemen's "crimes" and their motives. In essence, they are modern-day Robin Hoods, and while it's clear that a crime was committed, the movie doesn't take the time to spell out the consequences of bank robbery versus civil disobedience. The movie simply moves along from scene-to-scene, hoping that we will swallow it all and keep up with it. As the movie progresses, a mystery emerges, but the possible answers to the riddles are few, and the finale, when all is revealed, isn't very impressive. Two of the three screenwriters credited on the film are veterans, and one can't help but wonder if some things got lost on the way to the screen.
Given that laundry list of complaints, I should have hated Now You See Me -- I've hated movies for a lot less. But, the movie definitely falls into the "dumb fun" category and it won me over. First of all, the premise is very original. I've seen magicians stage crimes on TV shows before, but an entire film about a group of thieving magicians felt fresh. I liked how they each had their own individual personalities and brought their own talents to the group (although Henley isn't given much to do). While the story may be murky at times, the film does create some suspense, as we wait to see what will happen next and if the group will get caught. One thing which certainly jumps out about Now You See Me is the cast, all of whom seem game. Woody Harrelson steals the show here (and should have had more screen-time), as he gives one of those performances which is loose and funny, and I couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever seen the script. Leterrier's over-zealous camera-work aside, he does give the movie a slick look and there are some nice shots here -- unfortunately, they were all in the trailer.
Now You See Me is a tough call. The movie has its share of problems, but it has an original feel and even at nearly two hours, it doesn't feel as if it wears out its welcome. (The Extended Version, which is also included here, runs over two hours.) Again, the movie asks the audience to believe a lot of unbelievable things, but if you get on board, it's a fun ride. And while the movie is full of magic, one trick which it can't pull off is making Jesse Eisenberg seem cool.
Now You See Me makes you wonder how the piranha feel about being dumped like that on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.40:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 22 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing only a hint of grain at times and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good and natural. There are some dark scenes here, but the action is always visible and the black tones are true. The picture shows an impressive amount of depth, as the characters are nicely separated from the backgrounds and the image is highly detailed, never soft. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 6.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are nicely done, especially those which alert us to sounds off-screen. The film features many scenes with crowds, and these sounds populate the rear speakers, delivering detailed audio in which individual sounds can be heard. The subwoofer is active during the performances and the car chase scene.
The Now You See Me Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Louis Leterrier and Producer Bobby Cohen. "Now You See Me Revealed" (16 minutes) is a making-of featurette which offers interviews with the actors and the creative team. We get an overview of the story and the characters, and see how the actors learned to do sleight-of-hand tricks. The piece also looks at the location shooting for the film. David Kwong, who served as Magic Consultant on the film, profiles some of the most famous magicians of the modern era and also talks about the origins of magic in "A Brief History of Magic" (12 minutes). The Disc contains thirteen DELETED SCENES which run about 32 minutes. This includes two cut scenes from the ending which I felt were better than those presented in the finished film. The final extras are a TEASER TRAILER and the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.