A little spark of magic, two duller than dishwater leading men and a flimsy enough storyline doesn't bode well for 'Magicians' but somehow the sum of its lesser parts adds up to a chuckle-worthy and mildly entertaining movie.
Harry (Mitchell) and Karl (Webb) have been friends all their lives. They became obsessed with magic tricks as children and carried the love of the art through to their adult lives, building a successful stage show, with Harry's wife as their glamorous assistant.
But everything is about to change when Harry finds out that Karl has been having an affair with his wife. Nobody could have predicted how the usually quiet Harry would react, much to the misfortune of the audience of his last show with Karl. A routine guillotine trick results in the aforementioned cheating wife being beheaded in front of the horrified spectators.
And so the pair go their separate ways after the tragedy but come face-to-face several years later at The Magic Table Shield in Jersey, where they are to compete against each other. Karl has been posing as a medium to pitch for a television show and win over the new lady in his life Dani (Riseborough), seemingly oblivious to the fact that he is already attracting some amorous attention from his agent Otto (Boyd). The down-on-his-luck Harry has been working in a supermarket, where his magic tricks are continuing to get him into trouble, but also earning him a few admiring glances from his wacky colleague Linda (Stevenson), who seems unfazed by the fact that he chopped his wife's head off and is keen to apply for the position of his glitzy new stage assistant.
'Magicians' is a surprising treat, a low-budget movie with real character, simple comedy and no frills. The characters are each the perfect everyman, in that they are far from perfect. Their flaws are the stuff of all our lives (decapitations excepted), mostly revolving around selfishness, regrets and betrayal and these elements are played out well, considering the lack of a major plotline. Mitchell and Webb (of Channel 4's 'Peep Show') work well together as always, with their guarded feelings and unconvincing hatred for each other well executed (but they never quite reach the heights of their television antics). Boyd and Stevenson, however, steal most of the comic moments in their supporting roles.
'Magicians' is never laugh-out-loud funny but it has genuine cringe value. You'll be fleetingly entertained, shocked and amused as you watch the proceedings unfold, much like you would be at an amateur magic show. And while the storyline remains tame throughout it is the snigger factor that will keep you watching.