From “Electric Feast”: Now You See Me– Less ‘Robin Hood’ and More Petty Psychopathic Revenge (SPOILERS)

The following is a review I wrote for Electric Feast in August of 2013 of Now You See Me, shortly after its release:

Summer 2013 was the redheaded step-child of the movie industry compared to the summer of 2012, but while its movies never had the same flash as The Avengers, you couldn’t say that it got through without producing anything halfway amusing. Enter Now You See Me, a heist movie with an attempt at a fresh angle (they’re magicians robbing banks… because), and a moral message that people with money shouldn’t have it and that people without it should. Simply put, this movie was a definite crowd pleaser, even if the aforementioned crowds never actually showed up.

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I work at a movie theater, so believe me when I tell you this picture is not much of an exaggeration.

The movie’s plot revolved around a group of four magicians styling themselves as “Two famous actors and, one non-famous actor, and a girl” (“The Four Horseman”, for those not fluent in sarcasm) who decide it would be a good idea to rob banks in front of Vegas audiences, after a brush-in with a mysterious hoodied figure who drops Tarot cards everywhere. It’s also about a very angry FBI agent
It turns out that Mark Ruffalo IS the mysterious figure in the hoodie at the beginning of the movie who brings the Four Horsemen together in the first place, and gives them the idea to rob banks and give the money to the audiences. Yes, the whole time he’s been a double agent, who was secretly the son of a magician who died trying to re-launch his career after falling victim to a magician debunker by the name of Morgan Freeman. After his father’s death back when he was a teenager, he apparently started planning the longest-running revenge scheme of the century. This scheme involved joining the freaking FBI under an assumed name and having a very distinguished record for most of it, getting assigned to a case and sabotaging it along the way while blaming the French lady from Interpol who is working the case alongside him, and finally stealing a truckload of money he had some magicians steal for him under the pretext of giving it to poor people, ALL just to plant it in Morgan Freeman’s van to frame him for stealing it, while also bankrupting the head of the company that made the props that lead to his father’s death. Sweet justice no? What could make this first-glance Robin Hood seem any worse after realizing that his plan to help the poor was founded on a mentally-dubious magic-related teenage revenge plot that consumed a man’s whole adult life?who is tasked with finding out how the fuck they are actually doing that without being arrested after the whole “We are about to rob a bank onstage” thing. In the course of the movie, heists are done, wool is pulled over people’s eyes, and Mark Ruffalo’s character is made to look like an incompetent asshole for the majority of the movie, and people talk about magicians somehow having a sacred duty to help the poor and some shit, and the whole thing is amusing to the point where if it’s ever on TV some Sunday afternoon and there’s nothing better to do, I fully recommend watching it. That said, here come the spoilers:

How ’bout the fact that, if all went according to plan, nobody would see a dime.

Throughout the movie there are three heists, all meticulously planned out by a crazy teenage Mark Ruffalo in every detail, all designed to “give money to the poor.”

The first heist involved picking an audience member at random to tell them what bank they’d like to rob, which they would then do by sending the audience member there with a ‘teleportation machine’, which was really more of an elevator which dropped them into a fake bank vault under the stage, full of money that had already been stolen from an armored car, which would then be sucked up through the air ducts and dropped on the audience who then all benefit from social change and live happily ever after.

Except no, because the “random” audience member they selected was a French tourist that Woody Harrelson hypnotized into coming to the show, and the money they stole from the armored car was a shipment of euros (hence Interpol sending the French lady) which were then dropped on the Vegas audience. So what’s the problem with that? Surely it’s just a question of all the thousand or so people rushing to their nearest airport to exchange that sweet sweet French moo-lah into real money right? It’s not like they’d raise suspicions all coming in that weekend or before their vacations end and all just happen to have wads of French currency in their pockets despite not coming in from an actual flight and demanding it get exchanged. What’s most likely the case is several people walk away with 50 bucks while the majority of it gets seized by banks as possibly being linked to the massive theft which had just occurred in the area.

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You got all this money where, again?

But that’s ok, because the next heist, which took place in New Orleans, actually managed to help people, right? The whole premise of this next trick was to ask people in the audience to write down their bank balance on a piece of magic paper, and watch as it inexplicably keeps going up, while on a giant magic cardboard check which shows the money in the Four Horsemen’s sponsor’s (played by Michael Caine) account goes down. You see, earlier there was a scene on the plane to the Big Easy where the magicians were having some fun with Alfred the butler, trying their psychic mentalist shtick on him, and hilariously getting all the questions wrong (i.e. “I didn’t have a dog, I had a CAT named Fluffy you idiot!”, that sort of thing). They then reveal to Caine’s character that they hacked his bank account using the information he gave them on the plane, which turned out to be his security information, and transfered all his money to these people because they were all people who his insurance company screwed after Katrina. Michael Caine then gets really mad for the rest of the movie and hires Morgan Freeman to expose them at all costs for the rest of the movie. If he was thinking straight though, Caine had literally nothing to be mad about, since all the charges to the audience members from his account were blatantly fraudulent. Not only that, but he has video evidence of the people who did it, freaking admitting that they did it, as the Four Horsemen actually invited people to film the performance as a sort of “fuck you” to Morgan Freeman, who secretly filmed the first trick. Any bank with the slightest amount of common sense would be able to trace back the money and put it back where it goes, lining Michael Caine’s pocket, no harm no foul. Except for, y’know, the broke hurricane victims.

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“Sorry, our bank has a strict ‘Finders Keepers, Neener-Neener-Neeener’ policy”

So that’s two heists down with essentially no help given to the poor victims of ‘the system’. This brings us to the final heist, where the Horsemen end up faking the death of one of their own, and then make the FBI think a large safe full of money was stolen, by way of placing a giant mirror in front of it and hoping nobody tries to walk all the way to the back of the seemingly empty vault, before then coming back after they leave to collect the booty. They then stage their farewell performance by having holograms of themselves jumped off a building while all that money rained down on crowds and crowds of their fans, because if they learned anything from heist no. 1 it’s that it’s really easy to pretend to give people money when it’s falling from above. Because really all the money they drop form the building is fake bills with their faces printed on them, as Mark Ruffalo’s partner points out while he’s acting all angry over the turn of events. The real money was, as I mentioned above, all stuffed in Morgan Freeman’s van in order to frame him for taking it, all so Mark Ruffalo can revenge himself on a man who told people how his dad did a trick, which is a completely healthy way to deal with the death of a parent.

So in the end of the movie that they didn’t show, nobody gets any money, Michael Cain’s evil corporation is still in business after getting the bank to fix his account, and Morgan Freeman is jailed for a little while before they probably realize that there’s no other evidence linking him to the actual theft, his alibi probably holds up, and they decide that “yes, this man was most likely framed” in court. Also for all their hard work, the Four Horseman get to ride on a brightly lit merry-go-round for all their troubles where they totally won’t be found by any of the many authorities currently looking for them. Yes, that is actually how the movie ends, With Jessie Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, and two actors I’ve never heard of, riding a merry-go-round. I did not make that up.

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“This completely justifies my becoming an outlaw to help a selfish nutjob who manipulated me for revenge!”

 

 

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