Now Try to Watch Me!
What if the American Dream was only money? What if the dollar bill, no longer based on gold, was the only measure of everything, and a grand illusion? Has one become too jaded after watching such blockbusters on end? Well, here we are. Watch my eyes, watch my eyes, don’t look around my eyes!
Should we first go through character exposition? Please meet an illusionist (Jesse Eisenberg), a mentalist (Woody Harrelson), a spoon bending sleight (Dave Franco) and an escape artist doing (or not) an Houdini routine with piranhas (Isla Fisher). Is that enough of a random crew for you? Good, let’s proceed.
Teaming up through tarots (no, really!) our “Four Horsemen” (of what?) are confronted with a Jigsaw-like setup which, let’s say it once and for all, is impossible to achieve without a hefty dose of CGI. Any magic which will follows will be equally impossible to achieve without a green wall. Consider yourself warned – and bored in equal measure.
One year later, they are onstage in Las Vegas, for a grand illusion performance that has nothing to do with their conjugated talents apart from throwing card decks to the audience and explaining where a bunny goes when it vanishes. The show is a decoy for an elaborate heist to rob the Crédit Républicain de Paris (again?) to rapturous applause. Morgan Freeman is in the audience, playing The Eye in the Sky with his trademark bonhomie.
Sir Michael Caine is there too, of course. Ah, Michael Caine, him of the endless list of cardboard characters requiring a British accent. So can we establish that Caine is evil and Freeman good in this movie narrative? Thank you.
Siphoning money through a conveniently placed air duct, the heist relies on CGI and Jose Garcia’s innocent-abroad French idiomatics, from La vache to Oh merde. Interpol Agent Dray (Mélanie Laurent) flies in from Europe and is pitched against FBI’s Agent Rhodes (Marc Ruffalo, awful as usual). The Four Horsemen are interrogated, leading to more impossible tricks which will be explained by surveillance cameras played in slow motion.
Excusez-moi, the French heist being debunked by Morgan Freeman by way of a trapdoor, should we move on? Caine says to Freeman he has little eyes; the plot hinges on who does/did not believe in magic during a money transfer scene shamelessly appealing to Katrina hurricane’s victims before dragging forever on a protracted gag. Agent Rhodes reads with his fingers and Agent Dray knows everything as per the plot to progress.
Suddenly the Four Horsemen become fugitives and someone imperviously asks “Now get me an airplane”, which one guesses is part of the perks of featuring in such big budget endeavours. Come on, how many times were you able to shout that, then get one?
There is a Fifth Horseman masterminding the whole thing. There is a not bad car chase, lifted from other movies from the most part, but one has no idea what it is doing there. One Horseman appears to be down, not that it affects in any way the somnolent viewer. There is also a red herring or two.
A safe full of balloon animals pops open, a scene glossily but ineptly made, and one’s heart goes to the prop crew. Now, what could possibly be more insulting than a Katrina’s ripoff? Well, a 911 light show of course!
No one barely educated in such big budget thrill rides will have any hard time guessing who’s the Fifth Horseman: the only reason why being “Because we say so”. Money IS magic. Everyone is dumb. The true marker of fame is Times Square. Oh la la.
A sequel is due in a couple of mouths. Same magical time, same magical place, folks!