Now You See Me does quite a bit of spinning. Louis Leterrier spins his camera around his characters. The writers’ bogus screenplay made my head spin. A car spins out of control. Morgan Freeman spins one hell of a yarn by blabbing about magicians secrets. And its lead character (spoiler!) turns out to be a spin doctor. But the most apt “spin” idiom to describe Now You See Me is that it spins its wheels a heck of a lot. With exhaustingly annoying exposition, dull action sequences, and a series of asinine twists and turns dismiss any goodwill the film established in its first act. An interesting concept wears itself thin with Leterrier’s general misdirection exposing himself as little more than a one-trick pony.
Opening with a conventional though humorous sequence that brings its four principal magician characters together (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher, and Dave Franco), the film sees a steady decline once focus is appropriated to its law figures (Mark Ruffalo and Mélanie Laurent). The two actors move clumsily and waver in light of bad material. Shallow and dull, the two can’t muster up the necessary chemistry to keep the film’s momentum going. And with the film framing them as the central leads, the previously established characters fall by the wayside and function as paper-thin antagonists.
The problem here stems from a very limited and unmotivated sense of character development. With so many moving parts, spinning their way through the film, there’s only so much time that can be allocated to each character and their narratives. This is a problem that most films built on a twist have. It is when focusing on a singular character (take, Memento as an example) can a film really succeed. With an eclectic ensemble cast, the actors vie for screen ownership with everyone coming off as disposable.
Clearly an effort that required more attention script-wise, the greatest offense comes from the brash directorial disregard from Leterrier. As if to convey a sense of mounting tension, Leterrier spirals wildly yet captures nothing. There’s simply nothing at stake, with his manic direction only highlighting the hollowness of his material. Even when his actors go for a dramatic peak, it’s all undercut by the hyperactivity of the camera. While this is a staple of action cinema, its use here shows little understanding of its dramatic consequence – it leaves you seeing little and feeling nothing.