Director Louis Leterrier’s witty, suspense-filled thriller is a masterful combination of magic, deception, and outsized Robin Hood capers. Funded by insurance magnate Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), four New York magicians covene mysteriously and soon combine forces to form a new act called “The Four Horsemen.” They are classic magician J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), escape artist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), con artist/spoon-bender Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and elder statesman Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), a cynical and crusty mentalist.
Their opening act, in Las Vegas, includes a bank heist (the audience reaps the benefits), which attracts the attention of FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) and, later, French Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent). In New Orleans, they do it again — this time robbing an implausible victim whose funds once again benefit the audience, at least in part. Who’s really calling the shots? Leterrier ably switches between the magicians and their pursuers, letting professional and romantic sparks fly. The story culminates with the third show, in New York City, where the stakes are even higher and the performance begins to include whole city blocks.
The dialogue snaps, crackles and pops, digging into the conscience of magicians, swindlers and their handlers, with the humor busting the tension and vice versa. Leterrier serves all this up with Hitchcock-style class, modernized with clever energy and sophistication.