Now You See Me ★★½

Now You See Me follows four experts of individual 'magic' arts. We've got the cardmaster, the mentalist, the illusionist, and the quick-hand - all very interesting characters and incredibly intriguing together as a group. Two characters are especially compelling (played by Harrelson and Eisenberg) and while the other two are mediocre performances, the characters set the stage in the first act for a brilliant masters-playing-their-part storyline, akin to Ocean's Eleven. That's the movie I wanted to see.

Instead, after building up and getting us hooked on these characters, the film becomes a cat and mouse story that follows Ruffalo and Laurent (both of whom I love and do everything in their power to flush out otherwise very thin characters) as they fumble their way through the magicians' elaborate game.

The film is exciting, and for a film about magic there's plenty of action that's more physical than intellectual. That may not be a positive in this case, but at least it keeps a good pace and doesn't leave audiences looking at their watches. But both plot holes and contrivances abound, and the final act is truly a mess.

All vestiges of interesting character development for our four initial leads is long gone by the third and final act, as is also true of any emotional attachment. By then we've spent more time and attention on an entirely different set of characters, leaving us wondering why we really care about the magicians in the first place. There's also an important twist that - without spoiling it - breaks the cardinal rule of twists: you don't destroy the investment an audience has made by way of a reveal that ultimately makes that investment irrelevant. A twist should amplify through inversion and redirection, not outright dismissal.

Is the film entertaining? Absolutely. Is it a well-acted film? Sometimes, at least largely for the characters that matter. Is it a well-shot film? Leterrier makes some odd choices in camera work and while sometimes impressive, his free-flowing movement through complex scenes often gets away from him. But is it a magical experience? Nope.