[Spoilers for The Illusionist and The Prestige follow. Short version: skip the former, see the latter.]
The Illusionist had the bad fortune to come out the same year as The Prestige, Christopher Nolan's far superior con film set in a similar milieu (Victorian sleight-of-hand artists and magicians). The Illusionist dresses as a con film but really isn't one - the con is simplistic and the climatic revelation is a surprise only to the characters. In fact it's a revenge picture - basically Rob Roy with a thin veneer of stagecraft - and even the kinda-nasty twist ending, in which the 'hero' of the film is shown to have framed the 'villain' for a murder that was never committed, out of romantic pique, doesn't elevate a ham-fisted romance plot. The illusions are swell but (for a variety of reasons) difficult to believe, which speaks more to the audience than the film I suppose. And the acting is fine, particularly Paul Giamatti's complex turn as the Chief Inspector; he and Rufus Sewell (as the villainous Leopold) seem to be having a fine time in their dapper costumes.
The Prestige is, as mentioned, a genuine con film: both protagonists are conning one another the entire time, and suckering the audience as well, so the final shot of the film strikes like lightning. (At least, it got me.) The Illusionist would like to sustain that same tone of suspense, but it's ultimately a somewhat treacly romance/revenge tale - swashbuckling in place of prestidigitation would not be too out of place, alas - so it has only its 'magical' aura to trade on, as well as its strong cast. Which two strengths aren't enough, so (if you've somehow avoided the film all this time as I had) don't bother, Reader(s). Save your four bucks, go see a Dark Knight matinee.