This is a complex thriller starring Mark Ruffalo as FBI Special Agent Dylan Rhodes trying to stop a magic super-group led by J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), who is joined by Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) as they perform one dazzling caper after another.
Director Lewis Leterrier has produced an eye-popping film notable for exceptional production values. He is ably abetted by cinematographers Larry Fong and Mitchell Amundsen. While the magic shown in the film is as incomprehensible as it must be to be entertaining, what makes this film entertaining throughout is that it is a visual tour de force.
The acting is first class, and it is made even better by veterans Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman, both of whom add their charm to the magic. Mélanie Laurent adds a nice performance as an Interpol agent with whom Ruffalo is reluctantly forced to partner.
This is the second film this year about magic. The first, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, was a dismal failure. This, however, uses magic as the basis for an ingenious heist flick, and it works.
Although CGI is always available and suspected for a movie like this, the filmmakers made a major effort to keep as many of the elements in the tricks as possible in-camera.
How the group pulls off what it does is, well, magic. But the twist in the movie is well hidden and comes as a nice surprise at the end.
While it runs a little long, the fine acting by the outstanding cast and the high production values make this an entertaining trip.
The Hangover was 2009’s breakout hit, a huge surprise. Peopled by nobodies, at least nobody of whom the world had ever heard, Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha, and Zach Galifianakis, director Todd Phillips whose record up until then had been decidedly mixed having directed rubbish like Starsky & Hutch in 2004 but getting better with School for Scoundrels in 2006, suddenly produced an R-rated screwball comedy for the 21st-century. The Hangover was a worldwide phenomenon with a gross of $467,483,503. With numbers like this a sequel, The Hangover II, was quickly produced in 2011. Despite the fact that it was one of the more agonizingly horrible films I’ve ever had the misfortune to have to sit through, it actually had a higher worldwide gross, $586,764,305, than the original. The difference in the quality of the two films can be explained by the fact that the first was written by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, whereas the second was written by Scot Armstrong, Craig Maizin, and Phillips himself. But for the first, this would’ve died a quick death and a sequel would have been unthinkable.
Unfortunately apparently Phillips was blinded by the monetary gross and couldn’t see the difference in the quality between the two films, so he brought Maizin back and cowrote this script with him. It’s not close to being as good as the first, but it’s not nearly as bad as the second. In fact, it would be almost impossible to write a film as bad as the second. That’s just a long way of saying that this one is mediocre at best.
While Helms, Bartha, and Galifianakis haven’t achieved any level of movie stardom, Cooper has gone on to enormous success, winning an Oscar® nomination for his role in last year’s Silver Linings Playbook. As a result, he is not on screen nearly as much in this film as he was in the last two, looking as if his appearance in this film is just filling out a contractual obligation.
Galifianakis is the one who carries this film but the story looks like what it is, something that was quickly whipped out to take advantage of the enormous grosses of the first two films.
The story is ridiculous, something about Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong, just as annoying as he was in the first two) stealing $21 million worth of gold bars from John Goodman, a gangster who targets Cooper and his buddies to get the gold back for him. The locations are Mexico and Las Vegas.
The production notes indicate that this is the last of a trilogy. One can only hope this is true.