Charismatic magician named Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) leads a team of three talented illusionists, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) called the Four Horsemen. Atlas and his comrades mesmerize audiences with a pair of amazing magic shows that drain the bank accounts of the corrupt and funnel the money to audience members. An FBI agent named Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and an Interpol detective named Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent) intend to rein in the Horsemen before their next caper, and they must turn to Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a famous debunker, for help.
There have not been too many films about magic so this peeked my interest in this. The trailers made it look very cool and I was excited to see what the magic would look like on screen. Of course I’ve seen this before so at least that’s what I thought then. The amazing cast featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, and Morgan Freeman didn’t exactly hurt it either. I will admit that I did not remember this as much as I should so it was definitely nice to see it again.
This is film was when the team we know and love first came together under the most mysterious circumstances. We got a glimpse of each of them early on, as well as each of their different personalities. They were still fun to watch individually but it would have nice to have seen more of it. There wasn’t really much character development beyond these initial scenes (maybe this will improve in the next film). Their individual personalities kind of faded a little bit once they came together and the team felt taken over by Atlas and his dominant personality. He became a leader and never really gave the others a chance.
Atlas was the only one who really showed any personality here. Atlas was a character who was just full of confidence, bordering on arrogance. He’s definitely a heavy, quick talker which makes him come off as smug and annoying. There surely could not have been anyone more suitable to play him than Eisenberg. He and Harrelson’s McKinney also had some fun exchanges. McKinney was probably the one who came closest of the other three to get any focus. Despite that, they were still fun to watch together thanks to their great chemistry and good, witty dialogue between each other. Their relationship was the best part of the film.
The basic plot itself was simple enough as it consisted of the horseman traveling from place to place and performing shows featuring various magical acts which dazzled. Although some of their tricks defied belief, they were still mostly well done and the different effects behind them were great as well. Once they robbed a bank in Paris from a show in Las Vegas, this got the attention of the FBI and agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo). From then on, the horseman had to keep hiding their involvement and evade capture as Rhodes along with Interpol agent Alma Dray (Laurent) stayed on their tail while trying to figure out how they did what they did. In order to do so, they enlisted the help of a former magician and now magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman). Bradley had a vested interest in this as well as he was also trying to debunk the horsemen.
Their cat and mouse game between the horseman and Bradley and also with them and the authorities was very fun to watch and compelling here but it did get a little frustrating at times because of the fact one side was always several steps ahead of the other. Most of the fun here came from us, as viewers, trying to figure out how they did what they did. This worked for the most part but the story took this a little too far when it implied that there was something more going on behind the scenes that was fueling their journey. Because of that, the film started to get sillier as it was building up to its rather convoluted end which may frustrate some as it just felt unnecessary and stretched out the plot to a point that it made the film a little too long.
All of the performances were good here with Eisenberg standing out playing a type of character we’ve seen him play on multiple occasions. Ruffalo was good but didn’t really stand out here. Laurent was okay but her forced relationship with Rhodes was kind of unnecessary. Freeman stole a lot of his scenes as well. Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler was probably an unnecessary character but he and Bradley had some fun interactions.
Overall, this was still a fun movie with some good magic tricks but was a little undermined by its forced convoluted plot.