The way events twist and turn, these four outsiders go from being aligned with to against each other (and back again) at various times, which creates some interesting dynamic shifts. Adding to the mystery is how The Four Horseman themselves are just pawns in this whole scheme. The anchor through it all is Rhodes (played with riveting tenacity by Ruffalo), whose mission to take down the Four Horseman evolves from professional determination to personal obsession.

The film’s central conceit remains tight and focused for the first half, with an assumption that the final payoff will reveal practical realties behind the elaborate illusion. Where the film starts to flirt with overreach is the introduction of a centuries old sect called The Eye, a secret fraternity of magicians that exercise truly mystical powers.

While the heist illusions do ultimately remain grounded, the whole element of The Eye goes from pointless distraction to ridiculous revelation. Furthermore, when the mysterious benefactor is exposed, the satisfaction of that "a-ha" moment is brief for anyone who begins to consider its implications. Given how rushed the film’s conclusion is after that reveal, the filmmakers are clearly hoping we don’t give it a second thought.

The problem is that the movie begs us to rethink in precise detail everything we've seen. And when we do, it starts to not make sense, at least in many of the details. While the final twist is itself valid, it makes many actions, reactions, and private emotions by certain characters along the way – one in particular – very illogical. So the twist ends up being a rip-off, an all-too-easy (even if unpredictable) answer, which ultimately makes the deception inauthentic rather than earned.

The net effect is the feeling that the filmmakers constructed a mystery so complicated that they wrote themselves into an impossible corner. Instead of finding a way to make it foolproof (like they needed to), they simply came up with a clever "gotcha" and left it at that. And clever though it is, too many plot holes are left in its wake.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Moments of drinking. A moment of drunkenness.
  • Language/Profanity: Multiple variations of the S-word throughout. 5 variations of the A-word. Two mild profanities. Four uses of the Lord’s name in vain.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: A passionate make-out scene; they begin to take clothes off. A spoken reference to a tranny. Three sexually coarse phrases used. A "cork/cork screw" innuendo discussion. A spoken reference to masturbation.
  • Violence/Other: Some fight scenes. A woman struggles while trapped and drowning. Blood in water after a school of piranhas attack. Insinuations of actual magic.

Publication date: May 30, 2013