Schlock Tuesday is an occasional post in which I take myself to Tuesday cheap night at Windsor cinemas, where the theatres are crowded, the atmosphere is often a zoo, and audience members have never heard of the admonition to shut up during the screening.
Last night it was Now You See Me, the Louis Letterier No. 5 at the box office, which seemed the best of a bad lot screening at the local multiplexes. (Note: that’s usually the case on Schlock Tuesdays.) For once I agree with the critics, who gave the movie a subpar 49 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, rather than the audience fave 74 per cent. That’s because there’s a lot less here than meets the eye – ha ha – because this is a movie about a group of elite magicians. The best thing is Letterier’s direction, which is crisp and fast-paced, including even an old school ever-loving New York City car chase. The problem is that I thought this movie would have more depth. I thought, from the synopsis, that these magicians (Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco) had some political purpose in mind. That they were modern day Robins Hoods, exacting their tricks on the rich and distributing money to whomever. That only happens once, in New Orleans, where they rob – on stage - their sponsor Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) because he’s an evil insurance magnate and didn’t pay out to homeowners who lost during Katrina (the 2005 hurricane that, in popular media, never seems to go away). Other than pull a couple of other bank heists - spectacular though they are – the benefactors unknown (themselves?) that’s about it. The movie has lots of surface shazam and thrills and spills. But it doesn’t add up to a whole lot of story. The big surprise (spoiler alert!) is that their pursuer, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is actually their mastermind but they don’t know it. But the revelation comes like a whimper instead of a bang. Big whoopee. And the guy who seems to be at the heart of justice, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) - a kind of muckraker who exposes magicians’ tricks and has use for the FBI - ends up permanently jailed. So, once again, in popular culture, the immoral triumph, the moral despised.