REVIEW: “Now You See Me”

See me poster

I have to admit, the idea behind “Now You See Me” is pretty intriguing. As silly as it may sound, a group of magicians working together in huge elaborate bank heists is loaded with potential. The movie also puts together a pretty impressive cast featuring some fresh young talent, fun and reliable veterans, and a French actress that I’ve become a big fan of. So the ingredients are there for a fun an entertaining little thriller. That’s why it’s so sad that the movie stumbles all over itself and ends up being an unfortunate disappointment.

The story goes something like this – Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco are small-time magicians working the streets and house shows. They’re all brought together after being slipped a mysterious tarot card and address by a hooded stranger. We then leap forward to find that they have a fancy new stage show and perform under the name The Four Horsemen. After their first big show in Las Vegas rains down stolen money on the jubilant crowd, the FBI immediately get involved. Agent Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) teams up with a French Interpol Agent Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent) to head the case. Their initial interrogation with The Four Horsemen leaves a sour taste in Agent Rhodes’ mouth and he makes in his goal to stop them before their next big show.


Michael Caine shows up as a wealthy insurance man who sponsors The Four Horsemen’s act but who may not be the ultimate brain behind their operation. We also get Morgan Freeman as a former magician who now makes his money debunking and discrediting magic acts. Both are tossed into the mix of what becomes the movie’s big question – who is the person that’s really behind The Four Horseman? It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that twists and misdirections are a big part of this film. When the story stays focused on that it can be entertaining. Unfortunately this thing goes all over the place and by the time the twists do finally come, their effects on the convoluted story pack little punch.

There are numerous structural and narrative problems with “Now You See Me”. First, there are so many enormous plot holes many of which you could drive a truck through. There are also hugs gaps in logic that no amount of magic can explain. The pacing is good enough that you can overlook some of these things while watching the film. But if you take even a second to think about some of the things they completely fall apart. The story has holes. The characters have holes. The explanations and revelations have holes. We also get bits of mumbo-jumbo about some mystical magical force called The Eye which honestly I still don’t understand nor do I even care to.

Then there is the magic. With the exception of Eisenburg’s cool card trick during his first scene (a trick which got me), most of the magic and illusions were underwhelming. Most of the time they felt more like movie trickery than actual magic tricks. Also I can’t say I ever fully bought into any of the Horsemen as serious magicians. Some may blame the actors or it may be because we hardly spend any time with them. Most of our time are spent with the FBI trying to piece together what’s going on. That leaves The Four Horsemen feeling pretty flimsy.

SEE me 2

Personally I felt the performances were decent enough. Some where able to overcome the lackluster writing while others were smothered by it. Caine and Freeman were rock solid as always and Eisenberg was also quite good. But it was Laurent, the fine French actress I mentioned above, who gave my favorite performance. Like every other character, she has to deal with some occasionally clunky dialogue but she handles it very well. Not so with Ruffalo. He has his good moments but he also has a few stumbles. But once again, the script does him no favors.

“Now You See Me” is a real toughie for me. I was never bored. I never checked my watch. I enjoyed some of the performances, particularly from Laurent. But there are just too many stinking flaws to give the movie a recommendation. The story is riddled with plot holes. Some characters are so poorly written. The magic, which should be a strong point, won’t blow anyone’s socks off. In the end all of these problems sink the movie and keep it from being the film it should be. That’s a shame because the parts were in place. There just wasn’t a good enough story to work with.


40 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Now You See Me”

  1. What you’ve said is what I’ve heard from a lot of people. That it’s not bad, just average. But still pretty fun. Wish the magic wasn’t as underwhelming, though. I think The Prestige spoiled us (as did David Blaine).

  2. Agree with your torn feeling, I wasn’t bored either but I can’t bring myself to call it good. Good review, hopefully we can get at least a little more originality in 2013

    • Exactly.


      My favorite face palm moment – pushing a sweet black BMW and its cadaver driver with a bus in the middle of New York City traffic. Really???

  3. Pingback: Now You See Me Review: The Closer You Look, The Less You See | Rorschach Reviews

    • It’s pretty disappointing. All the ingredients are there. The movie won’t bore you. But like I said in the review, if you stop and think about any of it for more than a second it falls apart.

      • I think to much, so this may very well be DOA. 😦 We shall see, I would like to see it for the cast alone as it is rather impressive.

  4. Pingback: A Filmster Quickie: Now You See Me | The Filmster

  5. Yep, we’re in agreement here Keith. I found most of the magic and illusions underwhelming too. Sounds great on paper, alas it’s poorly written and directed.

    • For me the biggest problems were the ridiculous plot holes. So many of them. I found myself shaking my head at some of the goofier moments too. No amounts of magic can cover them up!

      • Yep, too many to count! Mark Ruffalo’s character is also so darn goofy that I scratch my head as to WHY he’d sign on to do this role. Well, the same w/ Freeman and Caine, too, ahah.

      • Yes, yes, yes! I did enjoy Laurent. She’s such a good young French actress. Speaking of goofiness, How about pushing a black BMW with a bus with a cadaver driving in the busy New York City traffic?

  6. awe, I was just getting ramped up to see this – but if the magic isn’t believable, it will just spoil the film for me. 2.5 stars doesn’t get me too excited. (The Prestige was awesome:))

  7. if the relationships between The Four Horsemen were expanded upon just a touch farther, it would have made for a more engrossing movie. But then again, that would have thrown off the tight pacing and polish of the film. Wasn’t really looking for the magic to thrill me. I knew it was mostly a heist movie with a magical coating.

    • The magic was a minor thing for me. The gaping plot holes, lapses in logic, and absolute silliness in places are what did it in for me. That and the fact that none of the Horsemen were that convincing to me. Just seems like a movie that should have been a lot better than it was.

    • I appreciate it. I’m like you, I really thought this had potential to be good. It has its moments and it’s not unbearable. But it does have too many flaws to get excited about. It’s a real shame.

  8. I can see why you cant recommend it. I was able to see the fun in it and swerve around all the holes enough to appreciate the fun content, and in the end give it a borderline decent grade… but its certainly a recommendation that comes with a lot of qualifications… 😦

    • As I mentioned its nerve boring. That’s the reason I went with a very middle of the road grade. If not for that I would have came down a little harder.

      Thanks for checking out my take on it bro!

  9. I really enjoyed this. It’s good fun. The action didn’t ask any more of its audience than say Fast and the Furious 6 did. The fact that this has become a hit was a nice surprise.

    • For me the little bit of action wasn’t the problem. It was the whopping plot holes, poor character development, and some generally shoddy writing (in my opinion). I really wanted to like it. Unfortunately it just didn’t work for me.

      Appreciate the comment and thanks for checking out my take on it.

  10. Pingback: Now You See Me (2013) Review | Tim's Film Reviews

  11. Like you I quite enjoyed this movie, but looking back it had a lot of issues and don’t even get me started on the reveal at the end. If it would have been aliens it would have made as much sense.

  12. Wow. That ending is so shockingly bad and laughable. I guess we’ll remember it though, right? But man, does it ever undo so much of the film, especially my favorite scene which was the interrogation. Now watching it, it’s like WTF?

    • I don’t know. Not much gelled with me. The high speed chase and the nutty explanation as to what happened was laughably ridiculous also. It was a really weird film for me.

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