Now You See Me | 2013
Forget the plot holes and improbable twists, and just enjoy the hugely enjoyable ride with the Four Horsemen.
New Orleans continues its relentless bid to become Movie Centre of the Universe as the production’s base. It’s here that mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) hustles an errant husband with his cold reading shtick in the Café du Monde, 800 Decatur Street, opposite Jackson Square in New Orleans, LA 70116. The Café, now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, grew from a humble coffee stand established in the New Orleans French Market in 1862.
Meanwhile, aboard a tour boat on New York’s East River, Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is less successfully pulling off spoonbending tricks. Along with street magician Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) and professional stage illusionist Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), they receive mysterious invitations to an address on ‘East Evans Street’ in Manhattan.
There is no ‘East Evans’, of course. The faded apartment block in which they are confronted with extravagantly theatrical blueprints is actually on the northeast corner of Orchard and Broome Streets, in Manhattan’s Lower East Side. The building’s entrance is 92 Orchard Street.
Skipping forward a year, the plans seem to be paying off with the foursome fronting a glitzy Las Vegas magic show, bankrolled by humongously rich businessman Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).
The venue, from which they appear to rob the vault of a Parisian bank with the aid of a teleporter helmet, and shower their delighted audience with banknotes, is the MGM Grand Hotel & Casino, 3799 Las Vegas Boulevard South, Las Vegas, NV 89109. When it opened in 1993, the MGM Grand was a Wizard of Oz themed casino, and housed the largest hotel in the world. Disappointingly, the Oz decor is long gone but Leo, the MGM lion, still stands guard.
Still showcasing the glitz of Vegas, it’s outside the venerable Golden Nugget casino on Fremont Street in the old section of town, that Inspector Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is flummoxed by a phone call informing him about the bank job. Five blocks of the street, once known as Glitter Gulch, are now enclosed by a canopy to provide the Fremont Street Experience, a light-and-sound spectacle. For now. In Vegas, nothing is permanent.
With a whole audience of witnesses, there’s no great feat of deduction involved in nabbing the main suspects, who are oddly cool about being arrested as they lounge about their luxury suite in the very new (seemingly post-gambling) Vegas, at Aria, 3730 Las Vegas Boulevard South, which opened in 2009, between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo.
This is Vegas, so when the Horsefolk are dragged off for questioning, it’s not to the traditional rundown, grimy copshop, but to the glitzy new state-of-the-art Lloyd D George Federal District Courthouse, 333 Las Vegas Boulevard South, opened in 2002. Without admitting the possibility of teleportation, though, there’s not a lot the Horsemen can be charged with.
Strictly conforming to the timeless law of cinematic police procedure, an outside investigator is sent in to annoy the chief investigator and, in this case, it’s glamorous Interpol agent Alma Dray (Mélanie Laurent).
Rhodes and Dray set up a meeting with professional illusion expert and debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who points them in the direction of New Orleans, for the Four Horsemen’s next gig. Which is a little bit odd, considering the rather nice surrounding in which they meet is Domenica, the restaurant of the beautifully restored (post-Katrina) 1920s Roosevelt Hotel, 123 Baronne Street in – erm – New Orleans. The Roosevelt Hotel, by the way, is also featured in Taylor Hackford's 2005 biopic Ray, with Jamie Foxx as legendary singer Ray Charles.
Briefly, it’s off to Paris for the rational explanation of the bank heist. The location is the dependable Pont Bir-Hakeim, linking the Champ de Mars district with Passy. According to your taste in films, you might recognise the striking double-deck bridge from either Christopher Nolan’s Inception or from Bernardo Bertolucci’s Last Tango In Paris. Or both.
In New Orleans, Bradley is doing a piece to camera for his Magic Unmasked TV show when he’s confronted by an irate Tressler, in a vain attempt to get Bradley to ease off his four protégés. The intriguing little store is Reverend Zombie's House of Voodoo, 723 St Peter Street, one of the Big Easy’s irresistible curio stores in which you’ll be able to pick up all kinds of arcane materials – and very good cigars, too, apparently.
Tressler’s protective attitude towards the Horsemen changes somewhat after their show at the ‘Savoy Theatre’. The feelgood redistribution of wealth sequence was staged in the currently shuttered State Palace Theatre on Canal Street at Rampart Street – another victim of Katrina.
With the performance ending in chaos, the Horsemen make an escape, attempting to lose their pursuers among the revelling crowds on packed Bourbon Street. If you’re visiting New Orleans, well, you hardly need me to tell you anything about this famously raucous heart of the French Quarter. The restaurant into which Rhodes barges, convinced he has them cornered, is the famous Napoleon House, 500 Chartres Street, at St Louis Street, which was previously seen in Oliver Stone’s JFK.
The grandiose lobby of the hotel where Bradley is staying is once again the Roosevelt, and it’s in the hotel’s stylish Sazerac Bar, with its original murals by New Orleans artist Paul Ninas, that he has another meeting with Tressler, this time on rather different terms.
The bar is named after Sazerac, a New Orleans concoction of French brandy and Peychaud’s Bitters, which is claimed to be the first cocktail. In 2000, the recipe was modified to use American Rye Whiskey.
Enough of this debauchery. It’s back to New York for the Horsemen’s final gig. A raid on the Orchard Street apartment leads to a car chase along the FDR Freeway, which ends in a blazing conflagration the Queensboro Bridge. Yes, that is of course the bridge famously seen in the poster image for Woody Allen’s Manhattan.
The climactic show is at 5Pointz, which stood at 45-46 Davis Street southeast of Long Island City-Court Square Station in Long Island City, Queens. The self-styled “Institute of Higher Burning” was an outdoor art exhibit space, claimed to be the world’s premiere ‘graffiti Mecca’ where, as you can see, aerosol artists from around the globe painted on the walls of the 200,000-square-foot factory building. The complex housed the Crane Street Studios, offering artists reduced rents for studio space, though the threatened redevelopment of the site was confirmed when the artwork was suddenly whitewashed over in 2014. It has been demolished to be replaced by, yes, condominiums.
The epilogue (no spoilers here), supposedly in ‘Central Park, New York’, is in reality New Orleans’ City Park, 7 Victory Avenue, and it’s here you’ll find the 100-year-old City Park Carousel, affectionately – and fittingly – known as The Flying Horses.
The epi-epilogue takes place on the Pont des Arts in Paris, the elegant footbridge crossing the Seine to link the Louvre with the Institut de France, where the railings have become festooned with ‘love padlocks’. Its distinctive metal and wood construction – and the fact that it doesn’t have to be closed to road traffic – has ensured it’s a screen favourite, in productions such as The Bourne Identity, Amelie and Boudu Sauvé des Eaux.