By Adam Ray Palmer
Today’s review is a sequel to the 2013 film Now You See Me. This next instalment is aptly named Now You See Me 2, of course.
Three years on from the first and all but one of the regulars have returned. The usual crowd of Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco and Morgan Freeman all feature with great additions in Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan.
After seeing this movie receive criticism, I feared the worst. I really enjoyed the first one so I had to give number two a go…
Now You See Me 2 focuses once again on The Four Horsemen as they resurface and forcibly recruited by a tech genius to pull off their most impossible heist yet. Isla Fisher is the only absentee from the first movie but she is fairly replaced by the formidable Lizzy Caplan.
Set a year after the events of the first film, the Horsemen are in hiding, wary of each other and growing more restless by the day as they want their lives back. Once the recruiting of new 'girl horseman' Lulu (Lizzy Caplan) is completed, McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Jack (Dave Franco) and Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) are kidnapped and blackmailed into stealing a chip (of the tech kind) for billionaire Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe).
This sequel has been in the making for three years and I understand why. There is a lot to take into account and this second instalment needed to be right. They had cast alterations, new villains, a new plot to find as everything was previously revealed and also the magic itself needed to be thought about. When thinking of the above, you must know that something has got to give, and sadly, it does.
Impressively though, the Ocean’s Eleven-style of filmmaking is still at the heart of this film which is what I adored most about the first. The arrogance in the characters at what extravagant tricks they can pull was so intriguing. It made the magic better as audiences were figuring out just how the Four Horsemen managed to rob a bank in Paris while on stage in Vegas.
This time, the narrative is a bit of struggle. The originality has obviously diminished as we know what this franchise is about, and worse still, the mystery employer was revealed last time out. So we are left with a bit of a hashed up plot that serves really as a middle movie to the next one. It just seems too reliant on the magic to pull it though, which to be fair, it just about does.
The cast and characters are hindered too by the laboured plot. The writers have pinned a lot of pressure on Daniel Radcliffe’s new villain and he gets there in the end. He severely overacts at times but he is definitely grabbing every second of screen time available. He’s a little cringe worthy but on the whole enjoyable.
The rest of the gang are also difficult to get behind. We need to remember that these people are actually criminals and liars, but they are billed as modern day heroes and celebrities. The characters haven’t really evolved since the last film but I still think Ruffalo is the glue. His FBI agent/leader role is the most interesting and he is by far the best actor here. I must say, I do like how the Four Horsemen are all in fact nerds and there's no bulging biceps anywhere to be seen – it’s refreshing.
What’s not refreshing, and a little draining, are the stunts - well one in particular. Excusing the overuse of hypnosis to get the script out of fatal plot holes, some of the tricks throughout are pleasing but the pivotal one at the end is limp. The extended piece at the finale where the last big trick is performed and revealed is just too farfetched. The best bit of ‘NYSM1’ was the finale and here it depends so much on the climax yet it only musters up an average showing.
Luckily, the joy in Now You See Me 2 is not the big trick but the elaborate set-up. In both films I have really enjoyed the build-up. You really invest your time in these segments trying to catch out a few tricks but you rarely see how it’s done beforehand. The set-ups nicely gloss over any plot-holes that occur later.
I must say, this film is entertaining. Its two hour nine minute runtime is pushing it but you don’t feel hard done by. The movie isn’t overly intelligent but certainly ambitious, and that should be applauded. You know throughout the magic is just illusions and everyone involved knows that, but it just about has enough swagger to pull it altogether.
Cineroom’s Rating: 3 Stars
Now You See Me 2 is out now in selected cinemas worldwide – certificate 12A