Video Verdict: ‘Now You See Me’

Jesse Eisenberg plays magician J. Daniel Atlas in the suspense film “Now You See Me.”

Jesse Eisenberg plays magician J. Daniel Atlas in the suspense film “Now You See Me.”

It’s a quiet week for home video, with only one major theatrical release moving to the small screen.

Now You See Me

3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for language, some action and sexual content
Summit Entertainment
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray, digital download and on demand

“Now You See Me” starts with such energy and panache that it’s easy to imagine it becoming a classic. Alas, director Louis Leterrier (“Clash of the Titans,” “The Incredible Hulk”) allows the project to flag as it moves toward its final act. The picture’s flaws, most of which can be pinned on a weak twist ending, are frustrating, but primarily because the setup shows so much potential.

The movie is a glossy, Hollywood affair, and Leterrier makes no apologies for that. It starts – as many heist films do – by introducing the players. First is J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), a clever magician who plans his shows with meticulous care. Equally important is Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), a hypnotist who uses his abilities to hustle tourists. There’s also Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), a street entertainer who is better at picking pockets and locks than pulling rabbits from hats. Completing the group is Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), a female magician who started as Atlas’ assistant. Collectively, they call themselves the Four Horsemen, and they gain international fame when they cap a Las Vegas show by sucking euros from a Paris bank and dropping the cash on their audience.

Although the robbery at first seems like an elaborate stunt, authorities get testy after learning that the bank was actually robbed. Cynical FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) leads the American side of the investigation, and he gets considerable help from Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent), a sexy Interpol detective who is fascinated by the Horsemen and their methods. Things get even more interesting for the officers when it becomes apparent that the Horsemen are planning a second heist.

Good suspense stories require complexity, and “Now You See Me” adds another layer with the character of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a former magician notorious for revealing magical secrets on his Internet video show. He is determined to show the world how the Horsemen are pulling their stunts, and his expertise make him popular with the police.

The best part of “Now You See Me” is the cast. Eisenberg is a particular treat because he tempers his boyish charm with oodles of vanity, making him believable as a world-class magician. Harrelson, Franco and Fisher are also fun to watch, and the fact that they’re playing stage performers allows them to ham it up.

Ruffalo, Laurent and Freeman are more restrained, but they deliver what their roles require. In fact, “Now You See Me” delivers on everything but its promise. Letterier builds considerable tension early in the film, and it’s fun to watch the Horsemen play cat-and-mouse with authorities. If all that suspense had culminated with a truly great finale, the movie would have been fantastic. Instead it’s just another heist film.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of featurette and an audio commentary with Leterrier and producer Bobby Cohen.

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Revolution” – The Complete First Season: NBC delivered a huge hit with this post-apocalyptic drama set in a future Earth that is suffering from a technological blackout. That means the characters – including the heroin, Charlie (Tracy Siridakos) – must survive using subsistence farming and basic tools. It also means militia are battling in a quest to control the new America. The excellent show is produced by J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot Productions, and the cast includes Billy Burke, Elizabeth Mitchell, Giancarlo Esposito and Zak Orth. The home video release includes all 20 episodes of season one, and folks who buy it now should be able to catch up before season two debuts Sept. 25.

“The Vampire Diaries” – The Complete Fourth Season: There aren’t many theatrical releases making their way to home video this week, but there are plenty of TV shows, including this supernatural drama from The CW. The show focuses on a teen girl (Nina Dobrev) who is drawn to two vampire brothers (Paul Wesley and Ian Somerhalder). Season five is slated to premiere Oct. 3.

“Scandal” – The Complete Second Season: Fans of political thrillers should check out this hit series from ABC. It stars Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope, a political insider paid to clean up the messes of prominent U.S. officials.

“Stories We Tell”: Filmmaker Sarah Polley delivers a cinematic memoir delving into the complex background of her family. The result is a film that pushes the boundaries of documentary while exploring the way private mythologies shape our world.

“Person of Interest” – The Complete Second Season: This excellent CBS drama stars Jim Caviezel as a former CIA operative who is hired by a mysterious billionaire (Michael Emerson) to help prevent crimes before they happen. In order to do so, they use a vast surveillance system with the ability to predict murders well in advance. Season three debuts Sept. 24.

“Haven” – The Complete Third Season: Author Stephen King may have inspired more movies and TV series than any writer on the planet, and “Haven” is one of them. The show, which premiered on Syfy in 2010, is loosely based on the King novel “The Colorado Kid.” It focuses on strange, supernatural happenings in a tiny, Maine town. Emily Rose, Lucas Bryant and Eric Balfour star.

“Empire State”: Limited-release drama centered on childhood friends who decide to rob an armored car depository. Liam Hemsworth, Emma Roberts, Dwayne Johnson and Michael Angarano star. Directed by Dito Montiel (“Fighting”).

“Spartacus – War of the Damned” – The Complete Third Season: Final 10 episodes of the Starz television series about a fearless gladiator who leads an uprising against the Roman Empire. Liam McIntyre, Manu Bennett and Dustin Clare star.

“Criminal Minds” – The Eighth Season: Police procedurals are insanely popular, and this CBS drama continues to draw viewers. It focuses on FBI agents who solve crimes using criminal profiling techniques. Thomas Gibson, Joe Mantegna, Matthew Gray Gubler, Shemar Moore, A.J. Cook and Kirsten Vangsness star.

“The Office” – Season Nine: Final season of the award-winning NBC comedy about employees working at a fictional, Pennsylvania paper-manufacturing company. Rainn Wilson, John Krasinski, Jenna Fischer and Brian Baumgartner star.

“Parks and Recreation” – Season Five: This NBC comedy returns for a sixth season Sept. 26. Meanwhile, fans can dip into the 22 episodes included in this set. Amy Poehler stars as Leslie Knope, a newly elected City Councilwoman for the small town of Pawnee, IN. Season five guest stars include Jason Schwartzman, Lucy Lawless, Patton Oswalt and Vice President Joe Biden.

“Ancient Aliens” – Season 5, Volume 1: Twelve episodes of the History series focused on alien research. Among other things, the program asks if alien beings helped early Earthlings build structures like the Egyptian pyramids.

 

– Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at forrest@forresthartman.com.

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