Louis Leterrier’s directorial debut, “The Transporter,” was the movie that established Jason Statham as an action star. It was also an important early hit for EuropaCorp, the French studio that kickstarted the careers of Pierre Morel (“Taken”), Olivier Megaton (“Colombiana,” “Taken 2″), and actor / director Guillame Canet (“Tell No One”). After helming two more movies for EuropaCorp — “Unleashed” and “Transporter 2″ — Leterrier decamped to Hollywood, where he ended up directing the leaden, mega-budgeted movies “The Incredible Hulk” and “Clash of the Titans,” the latter of which he has since disowned.
Leterrier’s new film, “Now You See Me,” is in some ways a return to his roots. Like his two “Transporter” movies, it’s light on seriousness and heavy on style — a razzle-dazzle fantasy about a team of bank-robbing illusionists. It’s slick, deliberately silly, and sprinkled with visual confetti — Steadicam spins, lens flares, CGI trick shots.
The movie opens by introducing the four leads: a cocky street magician (Jesse Eisenberg); his former assistant (Isla Fisher), whose solo act focuses on gory stunts; a once-famous mentalist (Woody Harrelson) who’s been reduced to using cold reading and hypnosis to shake down people for cash; and a sleight-of-hand artist (Dave Franco, brother of James) who moonlights as a pickpocket. A hoodie-wearing stranger slips each of them a Tarot card inscribed with a date and a New York address.
Flash forward to Las Vegas a year later, where the four now perform as a headlining act called the Four Horsemen. For their big finale, they present a complicated illusion where a random audience member appears to be teleported into the vault of his bank. The audience member is told to turn on the vault’s ventilation system, which sucks up a palette of Euros; a few seconds later, the bills rain down over the audience. The crowd goes wild.
The next day, the magicians are brought in for questioning by the FBI; it seems the audience member’s bank has been robbed, and a prop used in the magic act has been found at the scene. Soon, the magicians are being investigated by a surly agent (Mark Ruffalo) and an Interpol detective (Mélanie Laurent); they know the Four Horsemen are involved in the crime, but can’t figure out how.