The screening that I went to had a few empty seats (but that was to be expected given the surroundings of the cinema; DTES isn’t exactly the best place to have fun, necessarily…), and I might have enjoyed it more if I had remembered to bring my SCENE card with me for collecting points. Oh well.
The previews were action-themed, along which were a new Hugh Jackman movie titled Prisoners, City of Bones from The Mortal Instruments series, and the sequel to The Hunger Games, Catching Fire.
The movie starts off with the four magicians (J. Daniel Atlas, a close-up magician played by Jesse Eisenberg; Merritt McKinney, a mentalist portrayed by Woody Harrelson; Jack Wilder, a lock-picker/pick-pocket played by Dave Franco, and Henley Reeves, escape artist/Eisenberg’s character’s ex-assistant portrayed by Isla Fisher) being scouted out by a hooded figure and being united to a flat in shoddy New York by Tarot cards, which, for once in all the movies I watched, doesn’t serve any plot-related significance other than to bring the characters together. Jack picks the lock and the four discover a very intricate hologram that does not really have any further explanation given in the rest of the movie.
Enter a 1-year time skip.
The four magicians have rebranded themselves The Four Horsemen and are giving off a magic show where they attempt (and succeed) to rob a bank. After picking a person from the audience (which was intentional) we proceed to see what appears to be the inside of a vault (hint –it’s not). As the audience member re-appears, money flies out from the air vents and shower the crowd while Morgan Freeman (under the moniker Thaddeus Bradley) sits in the audience, examining them.
Here we are introduced to who the protagonist really is: Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) the FBI agent who seems not to really care about the Four Horsemen and the money trick, not until an agent from Interpol, Alma Vargas (Mélanie Laurent) swoops in mysteriously to overlook the case.
He then springs into action and brings the Four Horsemen in, where Merritt and Daniel proceed to show off their tricks to Rhodes before being let out due to a lack of non-circumstantial evidence holding them. The four then move on to their next gig in New Orleans with their benefactor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), where they perform their next show and screw him over by giving his entire balance to the audience. This is followed by a high-action chase scene where Rhodes manages to miss them by having his activated GPS being found on his person, suspecting a fifth Horseman behind the scenes. Vargas also mentions the existence of a group simply known as “The Eye,” an entity that I felt was unnecessary to the movie. Even by the end it’s never fully explained and we’ve only really seen one member.
He manages to get the upper hand on the Four Horsemen when he realises that his phone had been bugged, explaining why they’d always been one step ahead of him. He manages to track them down to the run-down flat earlier on in the movie, and ends up having a fight with Wilder (full of exploding flash paper) before starting a car chase that culminates in an explosion that takes Wilder with it. From the evidence left behind, Rhodes moves to a company that makes safes, only to discover that it has gone missing as a truck leaves. He orders the truck to be trailed, hoping to expose the Horsemen whom he believes are inside.
Later, Atlas and the remaining Horsemen broadcast their last show where they seemingly explode into bills and are seen escaping soon afterwards, leaving Bradley with all the stolen cash, giving Rhodes incentive to arrest him. In an attempt to get out of jail, Bradley explains all the tricks that the Horsemen used, only to slowly realise that Rhodes is the fifth Horseman and is also a member of The Eye. Rhodes smirks and leaves Bradley, forever to ponder why as his punishment.
Rhodes then invites the Four Horsemen (with Wilder who faked his death) to join The Eye as they get on a merry-go-round and seemingly disappear. While it’s an awesome scene, it doesn’t serve much purpose to the rest of the film.
Finally, at the end, Rhodes tells Vargas who he really is: the son of a magician who was ledto his death by the victims of the Four Horsemen’s tricks. She then takes a lock and throws the key down into the depths of the Seine, keeping his identity secret forever.
I’ve read a lot of reviews on this movie about how it was notoriously half-developed, and I won’t deny that. However, I don’t think that was what the film was supposed to be about. This film did a remarkably good job at misdirection, and unless you were paying attention to the subtlest details, you would not have been able to figure out the ending beforehand.
If I were to rate this film, I would say 4 out of 5, as there were some elements in the movie that were underdeveloped and not needed.