The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Now You See Me

Here we sit again. I love a good twist in a movie. It's fun for any number of reasons. Will the twist work? Will it fall short? Maybe the best thing going though is can you get ahead of the twist? Can you figure it out before the reveal? It goes both ways. Now movies are trying to dupe us. The end result? Movies like 2013's Now You See Me, obsessed with making the audience look stupid.

Las Vegas audiences have seen just about everything, but they've seen nothing like the show put on by four street performers, magicians and con men dubbed The Four Horsemen, headlined by J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg). During a show in front of a packed house, the Horsemen seek the help of an audience member and actually manage to somehow rob a bank in France of $3 million francs. Is it deception? A sleight of hand? Or is something magically mysterious going on? An FBI agent, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), is called in to head the case and figure out exactly what's going on. He's given the help of an inexperienced Interpol agent (Melanie Laurent) but is dealt a tough hand almost immediately. The Horsemen welcome the challenge. If the FBI and police are going to prosecute them, they're all but admitting that magic is in fact, real. The Horsemen say they've got two more shows and it will all come together. What are they up to?

Released in theaters late this spring, 'Now' was a surprise success with audiences, earning over $320 million worldwide. It was so successful a sequel has already been confirmed. I can't wait! Yeah! Reviews were generally pretty mixed, and I was skeptical going into my first viewing. The previews looked a little too goofy for my liking. At the same time, the cast listing looked absolutely ridiculous. We're talking lots of very talented individuals here working together. As is so often the case though with big, impressive casts, there's too much going on. Still, the cast is nuts. Unfortunately a very talented cast is wasted in this heist thriller from director Louis Leterrier. I really do my best not to give spoilers away so I'll try here, but it's going to be difficult.

Magic is inherently....well....mysterious, right? How do magicians pull off those crazy tricks? Is there an element of the supernatural in their acts? That's the challenge here. In the movie's first scene, Eisenberg's Atlas addresses the point of the movie. While you're trying to figure out his trick, he's pulling a fast one on you in the opposite direction. And there's the movie. While we're trying to figure out how the Four Horsemen pull off their jobs, the actual job/heist is being pulled somewhere else. 'Now' is admitting it is trying to trick us, and that's where things blow up. It is so interested in tricking us that any degree of reality, believability, or coherent semblance of anything is completely thrown out the window. Oh, they didn't really rob the Parisian bank? Oh, but they kinda did? Oh, all of their plans involved meticulous detail that no real life plan could possibly hinge on?

The catch is that the twist isn't really as clever as it thinks it is. Oddly enough, it's both really obvious and really out of left field. If you pay attention early when a character discusses some personal history, you can start to put the pieces together. That's as far as it goes. When the reveal comes, it defies description. It is so mind-blowingly stupid that it pained me to go back and thought how it all fit together. In order for it to work, whole scenes, whole sequences that we've already seen are now basically null and void. Again, no spoilers because I want you to experience the badness of this movie. Let it be known though. It is real bad.

Okay, now for the cast. Along with Eisenberg (who isn't as obnoxious as usual), the Four Horsemen include Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco. As their notoriety rises, we actually see little of them for long stretches. Ruffalo and Laurent are decent together, but we get the pleasure of seeing the what if angle of their relationship. Along with that duo in the law enforcement wing, we get Michael Kelly and Common, neither given much to do except look foolish as the Horsemen one-up and dupe them again. But wait, there's more! Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman both have key supporting roles. The parts are so thinly written that we never really learn much about anyone in terms of background, motivation or actual personality traits. Cool characters/actors in name only.

I also didn't care for the score from composer Brian Tyler, a kinda 1970s crime thriller throwback that's too obvious as it blares away with each passing scene. I had moderate at best expectations for this movie, but it was frustratingly bad. At the expense of any good story, 'Now' goes for the huge twist that depends on shock value more than making sense in terms of the movie. I can't wait to not see the follow-up. Oh, I also like the assumption that if you're a con man street performer, you're also an expert in hand-to-hand combat. I especially liked Franco's street performer doing battle with Ruffalo by whipping playing cards at him, Ruffalo comically yelling back. Unintentionally funny, a light moment in a sea of badness.

Now You See Me (2013): */****

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