The magic has gone

These prestidigitators pique our interest: four magicians with cocky talents put on a show in Las Vegas in which they transport a randomly picked member of the audience to a Paris bank and steal 3 million from its vault. Real money, of course, and the booty is distributed, falling like confetti from the ceiling, on to the viewers in the Las Vegas hall. Legerdemain or witchcraft? Hypnosis or illusion?

Now You See Me
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher, Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine. Directed by Louis Leterrier.

Rather, it's a crafty heist, plotted and planned down to minute details, and Now You See Me, for all its bombastic sleight of hand, is a film about magicians that doesn't feel magical.

Magic, you see, is magic only when you don't know how it's done.

This film is magic with a how-to manual attached. Obsessed with tricking us and showing off, it goes from stretching believability to ludicrous incredulity. A large cast of stars help enliven it to an extent. The Four Horsemen _ the magicians/tricksters/hipsters who pull off the robbery _ are played by Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco.

Mark Ruffalo and Melanie Laurent (the French actress from Inglourious Basterds ) play the detectives who try to outguess the four spellbinders as they plan more stunts. Then we have a mini Dark Knight reunion, with Morgan Freeman playing a professional debunker of magic tricks and Michael Caine as a millionaire who bankrolls the Four Horsemen.

Each of these players hold their own quite satisfyingly, especially Freeman and Caine, and perhaps Harrelson and Ruffalo. But while Now You See Me features card tricks and rabbits in a hat and David Copperfield-like exploits, it doesn't concern itself much with mystique and the fine line between plausibility and ridiculousness. As the Four Horsemen escalate their campaign of outrageous robbery, they seem to demand our total suspension of disbelief, leaving little room for pleasurable curiosity, and the film almost becomes a superhero adventure involving mind-reading and teleportation. Force-fed magic is fun for a while, then it fizzles out along with our complicity to believe.

About the author

Writer: Kong Rithdee
Position: Bangkok Post columnist