Michael Caine was in two movies that centred around stage magicians. One of those is a contemporary masterpiece, and one of Christopher Nolan‘s best works. Starring Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman, The Prestige is one of my personal cinematic highlights of the last decade.
Michael Caine‘s other magician centred movie, Now You See Me, made me question how little my time was worth, considering I had given two hours of it to such nonsense.
I like magic. I like watching talented actors. I like heist movies. The ingredients were there – but in the hands of clearly incompetent writers and Louis Leterrier, who has helmed The Transporter and Clash of the Titans in the past, it failed to astonish the audience.
What’s It About?
A quick refresher/initiation – Now You See Me follows four amateur magicians – Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), a close up magician, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), a hypnotist, Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a pickpocket and Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), a stage performer. Each of these characters is given a tarot card with a time and location. A year later, performing as the Four Horsemen, they rob a bank as part of their set. We learn that the Four Horsemen are receiving their instructions from a mysterious benefactor with the promise of joining “The Eye” – a group of the best, like . What ensues is a series of stage heists as incompetent FBI agents Dylan Rhodes(Mark Ruffalo) tries to pin the robberies on them.
Who Is In It?
No character in the movie could be described as anything more than a haphazard collection of attributes. Characters are the lifeblood of any story, and in a movie where the four protagonists are all criminals, they have to be likeable if the audience is going to get on board with them and root for them. I actually wanted these guys to get caught. They’re all terrible people with no redeeming qualities whatsoever who haven’t changed at all by the end of the movie.
Dylan Rhodes is yet worse. Displaying absolutely no competence as an agent, he *SPOILER ALERT* reveals himself at the end to be the mysterious benefactor the horsemen have been working for all along. He was the son of a magician who drowned during a trick. Dylan put the magician’s up to the heists to take revenge on the entities he saw as responsible for his father’s death. So, to be clear – he got mad as a child, grew up, joined the FBI, somehow worked his way up to a senior position while remaining incompetent in his job, instructed the Four Horsemen whilst working at the Bureau, and chased the Four Horsemen to shift suspicion. Some twists fail to hold up to scrutiny. This one fails to hold up to a cursory glance.
But you know what my friends? That’s not the worst thing about it. A good twist needs to be hinted at throughout a movie. Not tacked on at the end. You should be kicking yourself when it’s revealed. A rewatch should give you a whole new perspective. For those of you who have seen them, think of the twists in Shutter Island or the aforementioned The Prestige. That’s how a twist should be done. Here, they tacked on a scene at the end and yelled “Surprise!” I’m thinking it was a five o’ clock on a Friday job.
Is It Really That Bad?
You’d think I’d ranted myself out by now. I couldn’t possibly have any more to say. My dear reader, you underestimate what a train wreck this movie was. I have not one, but two more major qualms with this movie. Firstly – there is a force romantic subplot here. I feel like the writer’s saw a few other movies, decided that a romance was absolutely necessary. They took the talents of the lovely Mélanie Laurent and gave her nothing to do except to allow Rhodes to make googly eyes at her throughout. They even have the scene where he tells her that she was the one thing he didn’t count on, and she is conflicted about whether or not she should turn him in, she doesn’t, because of course she doesn’t.
The final thing – the final, horrible, grating thing I have to say about this movie – it’s attempt at humour. And I really do mean attempt. It may actually make you cringe. Again, it’s as though the writers decided that there must be jokes in the movie – but only had a vague idea of what a joke was, or how it worked.
What Should I Watch Instead?
The fact that this movie got a sequel makes me weep for the future of cinema. Some might go and see The Second Act. I’m just going to rewatch The Prestige.