July issue 2016
Film Review: Now You See Me 2
A brilliant sequence takes place towards the middle in Now You See Me 2. The Horsemen — a group of very good-looking and very glib illusionists determined to use prestidigitation to expose evil business tycoons for the good of the gullible masses — are in the midst of executing the theft of a small circuit board in a hermetically-sealed computer laboratory. The board is attached to a playing card. This sequence, showing the Horsemen passing the playing card from one magician to the other while their bodies are being searched by security guards, is captured with tremendous panache and flair by director Jon M. Chu and cinematographer Peter Deming.
Suspenseful, assured and engaging, it is just one of the many scenes delivered with genuine cinematic pizazz. But unfortunately, they do not add up to make a good movie.
Now You See Me 2 is implausible, tiresome, and totally absurd — “a sack of nada,” to borrow a phrase from the film. It brings together most of the original film’s cast — Michael Caine, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson and Mark Ruffalo — while adding the lovely Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe to the ensemble cast. The actors are smart, have good chemistry with each other and can be genuinely funny. They communicate the exuberant energy of magic shows with remarkable authenticity. Freeman and Caine’s performances are pitch-perfect, as always, but deserve a much better film while Ruffalo’s character is far too earnest for the giddy nature of the film.
Now You See Me 2 begins when the Horsemen resurface after lying low for a year, following a successful robbery that created a number of enemies for the illusionists. Their manager, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), needs the Horsemen to hijack the product launch of a technology giant and expose the company’s plans to make money by robbing the privacy of virtually everyone on the planet.
The assignment is botched and the team ends up in Macau, where the Horsemen meet evil tycoon Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who has faked his own death to get off the grid. Mabry tasks the Horsemen with stealing a computer circuit that will allow him access to all of the world’s computers. The rest of the film deals with the pursuit of the computer-circuit and is an unending series of slick sequences, outlandish stunts, hectic plot mechanics, preposterous twists and feeble explanations.
The repartee between the four illusionists is genuinely funny at first, but gets tiresome very quickly. Also, it is not a substitute for proper character definition, something the film sorely lacks. The plot is dense and convoluted, more confusing than captivating. It has far too many twists and after the first few, they fail to surprise.
Additionally, Now You See Me 2 fails to capture the nostalgic charm and charisma of sleight-of-hand magic. The tricks in the film are far too implausible even for its genre. They are likely to leave viewers shaking their heads in bewilderment. Everything in the film is larger-than-life, glossy and polished to perfection. An interesting patina is never allowed to develop.