Becoming a sub-genre unto themselves, Now You See Me joins a swell of, “financial bite back” films in the wake of real world economic crisis, speaking to audiences capsized by disproportionate wealth distribution. Here, snappily dressed magicians are lured to draw on Robin Hood principals with their expansive skills of deception. Stage acts close by dousing an audience in large bills, sourced from banks and uber rich citizens.
Jesse Eisenberg is an impromptu leader, street magician J. Daniel Atlas, partnering with three others when beckoned via a calling card belonging to a historically significant illusionist. Thrust onto a Las Vegas stage after one year of unseen preparation, Now You See Me charts an unbelievable course of thievery, a heist film determined to run from patterned cliches.
Atlas is hunted by FBI agents, led by Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and also sly showman Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) who seeks to reveal secrets outside of the magician’s code. Now You See Me is able to slip into comfort, removing itself from predictable gun drawn conflict, and instead relying on pace energizing sequences of impossible escape.
Credited story writers Boaz Yakin and first timer Edward Ricourt work overtime to imbue suspension of disbelief, a necessary action to make narrative swerves work in this loosely grounded reality. Now You See Me is a fan of the preposterous, and its seemingly generic magicians carry a skill set even James Bond would find ludicrous. Storytelling methods match this level of distracting outlandishness too, with a final twist trying to wrap elements with a simple tug when it needs a winding knot to even begin explaining itself.
But, director Louis Leterrier does not run from a fight, literally as Dave Franco punches out FBI agents in a dazzling, Jackie Chan-esque apartment rumble to usher in the third act. Kinetic camera work borders on dizzying, sweeping to purposefully perplex viewers who believe they’re in on the act. Now You See Me rushes away from talky boredom with its cinematography, and embellishes characterization with extended personalities. Few characters are delivering anything other than a colorful, collected front.
Now You See Me works to involve instances of movie magic with gloriously overdone escapism. This is a film begging an audience to play by its rules and accept events with an almost vintage demeanor. Casually displaying wildly loopy acts of thievery requiring unmatched precision – with characters led on by nothing more than a laser spectacle – Now You See Me boldly professes an internal ego in an exchange for lavishly showy set pieces.
We enter theaters to detach, accepting brazen artificiality with a (potential) dose of morality. Few swindle a crowd better than Now You See Me, and accepting its scam is key.
Beautifully displaying an encode from Lionsgate, this Blu-ray fills itself with definition, working to punch out negatives and keep them buried. With a handful of limited, bothersome selections early which say otherwise, Now You See Me reproduces a clean, naturally sharp film stock deep in fidelity. Medium shots display ample texture, and in close, facial clarity is often mesmerizing. Maybe visual quality is part of the act’s distraction process.
Black levels can and will peter out when needed most, missing pure black for something a hair more faded, although still dense enough to produce adequate dimensionality. Scenes with a mixture of lights, including an awesome Las Vegas stage show, will astound anyone with its black level purity. When asked to resolve low light nighttime sequences, things begin to show cracks.
A smidgen of other concerns include harsh ringing when the magic team first meets, and a decidedly digital grain spike during Eisdenberg’s failed one night stand. Walls of his apartment swarm with enlarged grain, against a pattern of well resolved, wholly natural materials everywhere else.
Now You See Me crawls out of its faults with a spacious color pallete, veering cool while playing to strengths embedded in each location. Glossy Vegas spills primaries, New York is dry, and New Orleans splashes with Mardi Gras festivities. Flesh tones never come across as upset by digital methodology. Additionally tapping into a contrast making the most of stage lights, Lionsgate is carrying a winner.
Much of this DTS-HD presentation will stick itself to crowded halls, where speaker echoes and audience reactions fill aural spaces. It is an effective method, especially when paired with eager camera work, rarely staying in place to force a swirling effect. Scoring works into the LFE with pleasing tightness, and wherever else it is needed.
Now You See Me’s highlight is a chase, with drifting cars swapping stereos as they cascade across the frame, and busy New York streets adding layers of ambiance behind action. Engines bump into the low end, and an eventual crash caps the extended skirmish with an explosion. It’s entertaining and boisterous, with audio set to scale the boldness of each stage show.
This review is based on a feature-less rental copy. It will be updated if a retail version is secured.
Note: Lionsgate’s needlessly intrusive DRM scheme has once again impeded DoBlu’s free promotion of their product. Most of these screen captures are not what were intended for this review.