Everyone loves magic tricks. The wonder has been ingrained in us since our childhood. And movies about magic are usually just as enjoyable. This one is no exception.
Four individual magicians–each with a different specialty–get summoned by some mysterious master magician to join together and perform “tricks” to steal from the rich and give to the poor. Meanwhile, a frustrated FBI agent, played by Mark Ruffalo, can’t seem to figure out how it’s all happening. He teams up with a female Interpol agent (Melanie Laurent) to put a stop to the madness.
The dynamics among the magicians are fun and kept very light. The tricks they perform are, at times, very fascinating to the point that we wish we could go to Vegas to watch their show. We become invested in the lives of these people because the writers let us. But then something happens–our focus is forcibly changed.
For the last 60-90 minutes we are pretty much solely focused on Ruffalo’s character. We don’t want to be, but we are. And as we travel deeper into the story, the befuddlement steadily increases. Luckily, the film makes itself fairly easy to focus on to somewhat help negate the convolution.
It helps to rewatch this movie. But then again, seeing behind the curtain–which is the ending–may cause you to feel like you’ve been manipulated. Realizing the filmmakers trick you into seeing what they want you to. And depending on how much you like magic tricks, you may or may not be happy about it.
But see, putting together a movie is different than live magic tricks. Filmmakers can make up their own rules, using cuts and edits to change your perspective–not slight-of-hand–making much of it feel contrived. Personally, I wouldn’t say that it bothers me. It just feels too easy here.
We do get a good bang four our buck with plenty of subplots. There is one about Morgan Freeman who plays a magic debunker smugly trying to crack these elaborate tricks. He has a rivalry with Michael Caine, who acts as a financier for the magicians’ performances. Caine exits about an hour in, but Freeman has much left to accomplish. And amidst all the action, there is an obvious romance building between Ruffalo and Laurent.
But all of the story-building amongst the characters only helps to thin them all out in the process. There is little depth. And the depth that’s established feels forced.
Mind you, none of this changes the fact that this film is wildly entertaining. How can you call it anything but? It’s gripping from beginning to end, and the way it’s set up, you will probably end up wanting more. Give it huge points for that. Beyond that, though, I can see why people feel slighted.