This is a film that falls into a very difficult category of movies I call ‘jackpot films.’ They are movies with a cat and a mouse, a criminal and a cop. You may be rooting for the criminals or you may want them to get caught, but either way, you know there is—or better be—a spectacular payoff in the end. So the inherent problem lies in the formula itself: Audiences are so eager to have their questions answered—the final ta-da revealed—that they have no patience for the stage-setting interaction and necessary plot that precedes it. The trick is to have characters and a story compelling enough to keep the audience in the moment, and this heist movie about four bank-robbing magicians, it would seem, has pulled off the ultimate trick.
Merritt (Woody Harrelson) is the mentalist, Henley (Isla Fisher) is the escape artist, Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) is the illusionist, and Jack (Dave Franco) specializes in sleight-of-hand. When they are each presented with a tarot card inviting them to take on one of magic’s greatest challenges, they accept without hesitation and form the performing sensation, The Four Horsemen. Things get a bit dicey when their illusions include emptying bank vaults and the financial accounts of their promoter, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). The group immediately draws the attention of a relentless detective (Mark Ruffalo) and a washed-up performer Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) dedicated to debunking the tricks of the trade.
It is impossible to discuss this movie further without giving too much away. Suffice it to say, I personally am no fan of magic (or clowns--chalk it up to a childhood circus trauma). Nevertheless, this movie is a smart, charming, satisfying effort. It’s not going to win any awards, but I thought it was a very entertaining way to spend a rainy afternoon. It’s a 7.