DVDS: MISSING A TRICK; DVD OF THE WEEK THE ILLUSIONIST (PG, pounds 17.99) ***.
Edward Norton usually only lends his talents to films that truly excite and amaze. So it was surprising to see him in this decidedly average tale of a magician who uses his abilities to snare a woman far above his social standing.
Set in Vienna in the early 1900s, Norton plays Eisenheim, a seemingly supernatural magician who wows crowds with his illusions and trickery.
Audiences love him but his talents don't impress the ruthless and conceited Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) who is both annoyed and threatened by Eisenheim, particularly as he has a history with Leopold's fiance Sophie (Jessica Biel).
When Sophie and Eisenheim begin to rekindle their childhood romance, Leopold realises he could lose the woman whose status could gain him his ultimate goal - becoming Emperor.
So he sets about trying to ruin Eisenheim, but it seems the harder he pushes, the stronger the magician becomes in his conviction to be the ultimate entertainer - while doing all he can to antagonise Leopold.
Eisenheim soon has audiences feeding out of his hand and wanting more from their mysterious conjurer.
They even seem to think he has powers that can raise people from the dead.
As Eisenheim wins over more and more faithful followers, Prince Leopold's hatred of his unlikely rival becomes even deeper. Getting desperate, he orders Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti) to find something that will enable him to haul Eisenheim in front of the courts.
The special effects in this film are impressive enough, while Norton and Biel do their best to bring a certain spark to the proceedings. However, it's not enough to make this a really rewarding experience.
The meandering pace also does nothing to boost what could otherwise have been an intriguing story.
This isn't a bad film by any means, but director Neil Burger needed to inject a bit more substance into the story to make it a must-see movie.
Extras include a commentary and Making Of feature.
STAR RATINGS: ***** Must see at all cost **** A+ entertainment HHH Average ** Poor * Save your money
LOVE RIFT: Jessica Biel and Rufus Sewell; CLOAK OF DECEIT: Jessica Biel and Edward Norton