Reviewed and written by: Brendan Chow
Nearly a year after the events of the first movie, the Four Horsemen, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Meritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and the newly recruited Horseman Lula (Lizzy Caplan) resurfaces with a returning act to expose a tech giant in Now You See Me 2.
However, not all goes to plan and they are captured by Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). Forced to perform their most impossible heist yet, will the Four Horsemen be able to outwit Mabry, and debunk the biggest magic trick ever?
The illusion is the key to a successful magic trick. This sequel manages to please fans of the original with even more over-the-top sequences, sandwiched between and electric cast of whom seem to be having fun with their roles, and expects the audience to feel likewise, and showcasing exotic locales.
When the first Now You See Me came out in 2013, it sucked many, including this reviewer, into its world of magic and deceit which eventually became a worldwide hit, earning more than $350 million against a $75 million budget. Suffice to say, it warranted a second go at fooling audiences. And now here it is, the sequel we probably did not anticipate; did Now You See Me 2 successfully pull the rabbit out of the hat, or end up falling short of a comeback?
With sequels comes the problem of the lack of ideas to move the story forward. Some tend to revisit the old, rehashing a story that we have seen before. They utilise old movie tropes, sometimes even blatantly ripping off lines of dialogue, or in this case, using the same magic trick.
This is not the case for Now You See Me 2. Starting off where the first left off, Now You See Me 2 starts off promisingly enough, further elaborating the backstory of Mark Ruffalo’s character, Dylan Rhodes. As you can probably tell from the opening scene of the movie, Rhodes is the most definitively fleshed out character as his arc throughout is the most interesting among the star-studded ensemble. With each growing scene, both onscreen and offscreen audience are left figuring out who is fooling whom.
While the first movie explored the world of magicians and their motivations, it left the audience in a trance and a whole lot of questions. Are the Four Horsemen the protagonists, villains, or the anti-heroes, merely taking instructions from the entity known as The Eye? Despite a more straight-forward good vs bad plot in Now You See Me 2, the thrill of the proceedings is ever so eminent, and it is in due part to the flair of director Jon M. Chu.
Recognised for helming zippy, ostentatious flicks such as Step Up 3D, Justin Bieber Never Say Never and G.I. Joe Retaliation, Jon M. Chu is no stranger to shooting psychedelic illusions and this is proven in spades. He films the magic tricks with such flair and verve, it is no wonder he is tapped to direct the next instalment, given that this second film does well at the box office.
Take for example, the scene featuring the Horsemen transferring a card-shaped device from one member to another during a body search in a lab, to bringing it out of the facility using lapses in the security checks; albeit illogical, it is seamlessly crafted and handled with both energy and wit by the director.
The Horsemen that we know and come to care about, once again demonstrate excellent chemistry and sometimes, revulsion with each other. Lizzy Caplan’s (The Interview, 2014 and Mean Girls, 2004) Lula takes centre stage. Taking over Horseman duties from the pregnant Isla Fisher and being the sole female in the group, she straddles the thin line of being annoying or charming as the newest member of the group with her antics. Luckily, of course, Lula more than holds her own in the male-centric cast and gets the best one-liners in the film. Although Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine and Jay Chou’s names are on the billboard, they do not get their due screen time. Nonetheless, they are clearly chewing up their scenes with glee. One casting choice that should be reconsidered will definitely be Woody Harrelson playing twins.
Glitzier CGI magic tricks, checked. Flashier action set pieces, checked. Greater tension-filled drama, checked. Bigger reveals and sentimentality, checked. Although there are gaping plot holes, countless twists and turns, character conveniences and story elements that are illogical, it’s a movie about magic after all. One can look past all that and enjoy this magic-heist caper romp for what it is.
Now You See Me 2
In theatres now.