A sequel that’s faster, flashier and more bombastic than the original
A surprise smash in 2013, Now You See Me introduced a fictional crew of superstar illusionists called The Four Horsemen, who climaxed their Las Vegas show by apparently pulling off a massive bank robbery. Imagine a posse of David Blaine types captivating millions worldwide as they’re being monitored very closely by the FBI.
This inevitable sequel follows the Horsemen as they’re separated from their leader, phoney FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), and unexpectedly dumped in Macau, “the Las Vegas of China”. Here they’re blackmailed by an off-the-grid businessman called Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who turns out to be the illegitimate son of Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), a corrupt tycoon seeking revenge after the Horsemen screwed him in the first film. Mabry issues an ultimatum: steal a super-powerful computer chip on his behalf, or die. Although the magicians initially want to call Mabry’s bluff, Jesse Eisenberg’s Atlas overrules his colleagues and they accept the job while hatching a plan to expose Mabry to the public.
As well as being even more ludicrous than its predecessor, Now You See Me 2 is faster, flashier and more bombastic. It’s also just as hollow: a subplot pitting Dylan Rhodes against Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), the wily old magician he blames for killing his father, succeeds only because of the talented actors involved. The Horsemen’s newest recruit Lula May (The Interview’s Lizzy Caplan) is a fizzy, subtly feminist addition to the cast, but Dave Franco’s Jack Wilder remains a handsome blank and Radcliffe’s manic baddie never fully convinces. Woody Harrelson winningly reprises his role as mentalist Horseman Merritt McKinney, but whoever decided he also should play McKinney’s evil twin – wearing false teeth and a terrible wig – should do a disappearing act of their own.
Yet despite its overwhelming silliness and the odd dull patch, Now You See Me 2 succeeds as garish multiplex entertainment. The superbly shot scene in which the Horsemen steal the computer chip is a highlight, but the film’s main selling point remains its starry cast. Even when the script doesn’t really stretch them, which is most of the time, it’s fun watching this lot bounce off each other.
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine
Director: Jon M. Chu
Release date: 04 Jul, 2016