This hyper-kinetic romp through the world of professional magicians contains so many complex camera angles and rapid shots it boasts a 300-person technical/special effects crew in addition to a cast of old pros and rising young stars. French-born director Louis Leterrier, with an even handful of previous action films to his credit, propels this story of professional conjurers at a dizzying pace from Las Vegas to New Orleans to New York City before a denouement that neatly underscores one of the protagonists’ cautions; “watch closely, because the closer you get, the more you’ll miss”.
A quartet of street magicians (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher & Dave Franco) are recruited by a mysterious employer who helps them design and execute magic tricks of increasing size and complexity. Their rapid success brings them to the attention of multimillionaire promoter Michael Caine who bankrolls three special events which turn out to wreck havoc on Caine’s finances; he retaliates by hiring retired master magician Morgan Freeman who’s made a career out of debunking his professional colleagues. When the tricks turn felonious on an increasingly grand scale, F.B.I. agent Mark Ruffalo frantically tries to get a step ahead of this freewheeling quartet even as Caine gets assurances from Freeman that he’ll be able to figure everything out…</p>
I’ve purposely ignored identifying the actors’ characters because they’re immaterial to the movie’s appeal - - the amusement in this visual exercise in jump cuts and swooping camera angles lies in your ability to disregard the many slight-of-hand tricks offered up by Leterrier in order to concentrate on just what these four are up to. With the intellectual depth of a television commercial and the sound level of a rock concert, the director and his small army of technicians succeed in placing the ultimate solution right where it belongs - - in the final 5 minutes of this cinematic rollercoaster of a movie.
Old pros Freeman & Caine deliver their lines with the nonchalance of seasoned nightclub crooners while Eisenberg and company are simply frenetic. Only Ruffalo seems oddly miscast, exhibiting neither the nimbleness nor wit to play on the same field as his opponents – but then this film isn’t about the acting - - it’s about the adrenaline rush you get trying to hold all the pieces in this propulsive story together. Great art it ain’t- - but great escapism? See it for yourself and decide.
The Verdict? Perfect summer fare; lightweight and about as substantial as the first course at a second-rate Chinese restaurant.
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