I must say that I rather enjoyed and loved ‘Now You See Me’ from around May/June time three years ago. I realise it’s not spectacular or a groundbreaking piece of art, but for some entertaining break I found myself drawn to it, so even though a sequel was perhaps not necessary I was happy to welcome the news.
Now we follow the Horsemen as they keep themselves underground following the events from the first feature. FBI agent Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) is trying to help them out from within but at their first time back in the spotlight, Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) and co find themselves fooled by an unseen presence. It leads them to Macau and Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) who offers them a heist in exchange for their freedom.
So, this time around we get more of a revenge based narrative as the Four Horsemen and leader Dylan get wrapped up in a sheet of mystical trickery. I must say that I do prefer the more fun side of the heist plot in the 2013 movie, but for a sequel this film does very well in not being needless or bad. At least I think that this film helps explain more and adds a different dimension to the characters to how they deal with being overshadowed by The Eye and science.
Jon M. Chu steps in to direct this time around and it could be said he gives the set up a darker edge. Yet, even with this more present thirst for vengeance and tragic backstory mixed in, he doesn’t do well with the pace. Sadly, the big let down for me within this film is how more often that not the plot begins sagging. Where the first film flew fast like a flung playing card, this one drops short of that adrenaline like a card flopped by the less than able Merritt.
Brian Tyler still ensures the music is captivating, the cinematography gives everything a cool sheen and London never looked so impressive even through the obligatory rain. It’s in the snappier moments like the ‘Mission: Impossible’ styled card escape sequence or the three different small tricks around London that the movie feels magical. Almost frustratingly you have to wait through an unnecessary Woody Harrelson reveal, a so-so ending twist and less charm than Louis Leterrier’s performance to get to these sharp and dazzling moments.
But saying this, if you’re after a silly fun caper outing then this film couldn’t be more for you. Lift up that stage show red curtain and marvel at how outlandish a film can be, how starry a cast can be and have a laugh both intended and unintentionally. Like a real magic trick you have to stay with all the slow pre-amble in hype for the big illusion and bigger reveal.
Jesse Eisenberg does what he does, with that strong neurotic performance making Atlas a force to be reckoned with in the role of potential captain. Woody Harrelson is a right laugh to watch and he’s great in becoming characters as you’ll see, even if it becomes a white toothed mistake on his CV. Mark Ruffalo takes a bigger slice of the pie this time and just shows that even in a comic magic based movie he can act his socks off whilst playing a man searching for answers. Lizzy Caplan is alright, but I hope that Isla Fisher returns because as newbie Lula May Caplan plays the part more than a little bit annoyingly. Morgan Freeman is a brilliant persona as always and gets a little boost to his character. Daniel Radcliffe as another new addition is fun, with a grit of smugness and mean, utilising on science even if we all know he’s the boy wizard underneath.
I still like the first film a lot more, but ‘Now You See Me 2’ is still a lark and an entertaining trip of magic, distraction and spectacle.