This movie had the misfortune to be released in close proximity to The Prestige and Nolan’s tale of magicians easily trumped this one. But this film isn’t bad, just occasionally a little lackluster and, obviously, looks very, very much smaller than it actually is when it’s placed next to The Prestige. Edward Norton makes a mildly charismatic leading man here and Burger has an eye for picturesque scenes. But there are problems. Jessica Biel is rather miscast and the central storyline is not nearly as clever as it wants to be and the mysteries of the magic never grabbed me here the way they did in The Prestige. But the movie does really shine in the supporting cast. Rufus Sewell gives a really great, idiosyncratic performance as the villain of the piece. But the great pleasure here is Paul Giamatti as the ethically compromised, wily Chief Inspector, a man struggling to find the balance between loyalty & freedom, between logic & wonder. It’s a genuinely great performance, one that I’m sure has been overlooked in Giamatti’s stellar body of work just due to the movie being rather flawed and forgettable. But it’s a film that’s almost worth seeing for his performance alone; it’s genuinely one of his best. Granted, I think about ninety percent of his performances could be called “one of his best.” Anyway, it’s a minor movie for sure, but it’s entertaining enough in its own way; the flaws aren’t crippling and it was worth watching once for the pleasures it does have. Conditionally recommended. 3 stars.
tl;dr – forgotten movie isn’t bad, just fairly lackluster; compensating for the all-around dullness is a wonderful supporting turn from Giamatti. 3 stars.