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This ensemble heist thriller from director Louis Letterier (Clash Of The Titans) is a slick, glossy big-budget joyride full of twists and turns as a group of magicians embark on pulling off the biggest trick of all time.

Its sleight of hand means there is less to it than meets the eye, but the fun is all in the show.  J Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), his former assistant Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), hypnotist and ‘mentalist’ Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and street hustler Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) are pulled together by an unknown individual who’s been following their careers and wants them to perform a string of grandstanding illusions, robbing banks in the process and doling out the cash to the public.

Mark Ruffalo’s bungling cop is none too pleased, and enlists Morgan Freeman’s magic-skeptic to chase down the team before they pull off their final trick and disappear for good. 

Characterisation is left by the wayside – there is little back story to the rag-tag team of tricksters other than that which fuels the narrative, but it barely lets up. The top-drawer cast dive in – the likes of Michael Caine (the big bucks benefactor) and Morgan Freeman are always a treat to watch – and the dialogue fizzes with whip-snap one-liners, but it is the story that engages most. 

Beneath the directorial cunning and narrative misdirection, it is not quite as clever as it initially appears. But, like the Las Vegas-styled magic shows the team perform, the entertainment is found in the show itself, not in finding out how it is all done. And it is a starry, classy show, for sure. 

Good for: Brain candy that quickens the pulse if not wholly standing up to close scrutiny.

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Isla Fisher | 12A | 115mins | Out July 3


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