Every so often you see a movie you’ve heard about a lot and it’s just entirely not what you would think. And it’s hard to know what to do with this schizophrenic, ADD film which doesn’t have a main character but has way too many characters, played by a ridiculous cast.
This film feels like a bunch of ideas for separate films, grafted onto each other in the hope that they all will work. One film is about a group of misfits who band together to pull off seemingly impossible missions. (Yes, that familiar trope, only using magicians this time.) Another film is about stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Another film is about cops trying to catch bank robbers. And finally there’s a subplot about a James Randi type who, in this case, debunks magicians (as opposed to Randi himself, who debunks people who claim they are doing something real as opposed to magic). I think two of these films could coexist together, but four of them feels like too much.
The film is frantic and manic from its opening montage introducing the magician characters and we don’t really have a sense of who the film is about. Certainly it’s about the magicians initially but then it’s about the cops, and then it’s about the Randi character and then it’s about the cops again. What I’m trying to convey is I’m not sure who the audience is supposed to be rooting for. Most of the characters are unlikable and almost of the ones who appear likable don’t get enough screen time. (There are so many characters, there is very little development, as you might expect.) The Dray character is basically the only main character worth sympathizing with, as far as I can figure. I mean, too many of the characters are just smug assholes.
Because there is no character development and because the film just zooms along fro one set piece to the next, with tons of cuts, it’s really hard to care about any of it even if the thing is seemingly very well made from a technical standpoint. For example, the fight scene between between Ruffalo and Franco is really good. And though this is not a style of film-making I like, it’s certainly very competent.
But I don’t particularly like audio visual magic because it doesn’t have the sense of realism of live magic, and this has a lot of it, magic that even when they explain it is basically impossible for them to have done this. So that’s another issue.
So I was torn. On the one hand, I think the film is extremely flawed in terms of story and character development, and is overdone when it comes to trying to amaze us in terms of “magic.” But I wasn’t bored, and it’s competently made. (Really, it’s mostly well made except for the CGI parts.)
But then the twist happens and it is a a My Bloody Valentine remake level twist which makes zero sense and essentially undercuts the entire film. You know the complaint about The Usual Suspects, how the movie should basically not exist? Well, in this case it’s basically true. A whole third of the film is essentially unnecessary.
4/10 kind of feels charitable.