A nifty little thriller that suffers from egregious mis-marketing, “Magic” is the type of quiet character study that plays very well on a quiet weekend afternoon, even if it won’t leave much of a lasting impression. In the lead role, a young Anthony Hopkins manages to single-handedly elevate the entire production thanks to his sympathetic approach to his forlorn character – he’s got all the makings of a sad sack but luckily Hopkins is believably downtrodden every step of the way, which goes a long way to selling the movie’s subverted B-movie plot masquerading as a psychological thriller. Ann-Margaret is solid as his torn love interest while Ed Lauter is effectively sinister as her distrustful husband, and Burgess Meredith also shows up for a few electrifying interactions with Hopkins that are more intense that the actual suspense scenes. Although the running time is rather short the movie still starts to feel like it’s spinning its wheels before the climax, and it’s hard not to feel cheated by the resolution (particularly when contrasted with its marketing campaign) but once that reaction has subsided, it’s easier to appreciate the movie on its own terms.
Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)