Directed by: Louis Leterrier
Written by: Ed Solomon, Boaz Yakin, Edward Ricourt
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher
Every turn of the plot, which is about a bunch of illusionists who use their tricks to rob several large financial institutions, and every big reveal are meticulously choreographed and presented with a dash of sparkle and pizzazz- I could practically hear director Louis Leterrier shout “Ta-da!” at the end of each scene. The problem is we can already see the plot’s twists and turns miles before they get there, so the effect is a little ruined. What’s the use of a red herring if there’s a giant neon sign over it screaming, “This is a red herring!”
The writing has a schizophrenic quality that only happens when you have three different people writing a script. The magicians themselves (Jesse Eisenberg, Isla Fisher, Dave Franco, and Woody Harrelson) are actually not all that interesting as characters, with the notable exception of Harrelson as a down-at-heel mentalist. Morgan Freeman shows up as a magician who makes specials exposing how tricks are done, a pretty dickish character that would be fun if Freeman were given anything to do.
All in all a pretty forgettable experience. But I gave this movie 2.5 stars instead of 1 because of one thing: the sparkling, terrific chemistry between Mark Ruffalo, who plays an FBI agent investigating the magicians, and Melanie Laurent, who plays his partner and an Interpol detective. Ruffalo and Laurent sizzle throughout this stupid, ridiculous movie like Carey Grant and Rosalind Russell, elevating the dialogue, and leaping into an easy, hypnotic banter. Their scenes together are the only times you relax, sit back and enjoy what you’re watching, instead of defensively trying to turn off your brain so you can be even moderately surprised with what comes next.
Were I a film executive, I would get on the phone to a variety of screenwriters and force them at gunpoint to write a series of movies for the two. I can see it now- Ruffalo as a grumpy, jaded FBI agent/journalist/doctor/lawyer/professor/whatever, and Laurent as his Girl Friday. They could single-handedly save the rom-com genre. In a rom-com we already know how it’s going to end- the point is that it’s obvious. It’s how you get there that matters. And I don’t care if I see the end coming a mile away, as long as Ruffalo and Laurent are on the path with me.