Movies about magic rarely work—a good trick requires the gasp of a live audience—and the unsubtle hands behind this abracadabra heist film aren’t the ones to prove otherwise. Right from the get-go, we doubt the skills (heavily buttressed by CGI) of our heroic quartet: Daniel (Jesse Eisenberg) seduces coeds with card tricks; wild-eyed Merritt (Woody Harrelson) can hypnotize strangers at a touch; Henley (Isla Fisher) mysteriously escapes a glass box swarming with piranhas; and Jack (Dave Franco, James’s clonelike younger brother) boosts wallets on the ferry. Drawn together by a mysterious invitation, they become the Four Horsemen, raining millions of dollar bills on thrilled Vegas crowds and perhaps committing crimes in the process.
Nothing about their antics is remotely believable or, worse, charming in the slightest; the camera leaps across the stage, slinging our eyeballs around as the lights swivel à la The Voice, and you can’t help but notice all the heavy lifting. It’s not like we’ve ever turned to Louis Leterrier (the French hack-for-hire behind 2010’s Clash of the Titans) for psychological realism. But shouldn’t someone have warned him that his hyperventilating technique might kill the mood? When Mark Ruffalo shows up as a crumpled detective, you expect a dose of reality, yet on his heels come twin hams Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, whose solemn presences (as Christopher Nolan knows well) prove wonderful distractions from silliness.
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