VOD film review: Now You See Me 2
James R | On 11, Nov 2016
Director: Jon M Chu
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe
“Seeing is believing,” Morgan Freeman tells us at the beginning of Now You See Me 2. “But is it truth?” The follow-up to 2013’s hugely entertaining thriller, which paired up the improbable partners of magic and action for a tricksy heist flick, Now You See Me 2 looks and sounds like the kind of bloated sequel that opposes everything the surprising original represented. But, as Freeman reminds us, appearances can be deceptive. Or can they?
We catch up with the Four Horsemen – Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg), Marritt (Harrelson) and Jack (Franco), now down to three, following the departure of Isla Fisher’s Henley – a year after they outwitted the FBI and screwed over Michael Caine’s rich insurance tycoon. Now, the fugitives spend their days waiting for more instructions from the mysterious “Eye”, while coming into contact with dogged agent Dylan (Ruffalo), who has a particular insight into their ongoing case. But when the group’s new trick is upended by Daniel Radcliffe’s Walter Mabry, the son of Caine’s patsy, they find themselves having to follow his orders and carry out another ridiculous stunt.
If you’ve already stopped to re-read that cast list, you’ve hit upon the secret that Now You See Me 2 has up its sleeve. And no matter how hard the film tries, it can’t quite dislodge it. And it tries – very, very hard.
Returning writer Ed Solomon and his co-scribes revel in the chance to go bigger than their first outing. But, alas, they fall into the classic trap of not knowing when to stop: Now You See Me’s charm lay in its ability to channel Ocean’s 11 levels of tension from its relatively stripped-down set-up. This is very much Ocean’s 12, with three villains too many, and, crucially, several set pieces too many as well.
Concert movie veteran Jon M Chu directs the action with the kind of energetic, precise choreography needed to appreciate the intricacies of each illusion – a punch-up in a magic shop is a great concept, well executed – but as the plot progresses, he has to keep upping the ante to keep things new. A deft, daft central scene involving the passing around of a playing card-sized computer chip pushes the boundaries of credibility, resting on Chu’s camerawork and the toe-tapping music, but by the time we hit the finale, the amount of CGI breaks through those barriers and simply becomes unbelievable. One stunt sees Eisenberg’s Atlas change the direction of rain; a feat that could be performed in real life, but rather than use the actual mechanics the script teases, Chu uses digital effects – a trickery that feels less like magic and more like cheating.
Fortunately, though, that secret card is still in place – and, even when the twisting narrative suffers from one twist too many, there’s something oddly enchanting about watching such a talented ensemble interact. Fisher is missed and Freeman is unnecessary, but Harrelson is extra value for money, while Lizzy Caplan’s addition injects some laugh-out-loud inappropriate pranks that go a long way to keeping you hooked. But there is little misdirection from the disappointing nature of this flashy spectacle. When a magic-themed film introduces the idea of a prison break (a solid premise for an overall story) and merely sidesteps it, you suspect the writers are starting to fool themselves too. Now You See Me 2 appears to be a flimsy, flawed spectacle and, despite the efforts of its fun cast, in this case, seeing often is believing.