What's in their bag of tricks this time?
Now You See Me 2 is the sequel to 2013's Now You See Me with Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, and Michael Caine reprising their respective roles. Newcomers are Daniel Radcliffe and Lizzy Caplan. Caplan replaces Isla Fisher as the female member of the Horsemen, because Fisher became pregnant.
The Four Horsemen have gone into hiding one year after beating the FBI in a game of wits and winning the devotion of the general public. Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo), the Horsemen's leader, eventually brings the four magicians back together and assigns them to a new mission. The mission goes awry, and the Horsemen find themselves in the middle of China, where they meet tech prodigy Walter Mabry (Radcliffe). Mabry recruits the Horsemen to pull off a heist to steal a chip that allows access to all of the world's electronic devices.
A film like Now You See Me 2, along with the first one, will be judged based on one's personal conception of the art of magic and its possibilities. If you believe magic is possible in any shape or form, I would highly recommend Now You See Me 2. If you would argue that magic has its limits and needs some semblance of logic, then this film may not be your cup of tea. I am one that favors the latter. The filmmakers, though, seem hell-bent on convincing you why the former should be the correct answer. Why is that? Because they've got CGI! And with CGI, just about anything is possible, even the most far-fetched magic tricks you could possibly think of. So what if it's implausible? Magic is meant to dazzle and be eye-candy! It is not my intention to act condescendingly towards magic, card tricks, etc. and if for whatever reason I seem to come off that way, I apologize. Magic shows can be terrific fun, but magic in film is a different story.
Now You See Me 2 has a strong ensemble cast to boast with, and everyone does just fine in their respective roles. Where the film loses credibility is in its plot and sometimes nonsensical visuals. Interesting because I would make almost the exact same critique with the first one.
- Daniel Radcliffe's villainous portrayal. Poor Radcliffe may be type-casted as Harry Potter for the rest of his career, but seeing him as the cunning Walter Mabry was quite outside the box. It was not only pleasantly different, but also effective. Radcliffe achieves a nice balance of evil-doer and humanism. He wants to be bad, but he also struggles with paranoia of being caught and being done over by the Horsemen.
- Mark Ruffalo. For some reason, I found myself getting behind Dylan Rhodes and what he goes through throughout the movie. It wasn't so much that I could sympathize with him, but more so his ability to cope with what he endures I found to be impressive. Rhodes struggles with a traumatic childhood event and later must deal with the fact that his identity becomes void. Ruffalo never has any kind of nervous breakdown or Nicolas Cage-like freakout. If any normal person was experiencing trauma or was a victim to identity theft, I would think anger and frustration are expected emotions. While Rhodes is mightily concerned for himself and the Horsemen, he always remains professional, refusing to bend under the intense pressure.
- The frequent plot twists. Now You See Me 2 is a movie about tricks and deception. Like any magic show, you being deceived is a key part in making everything work. The movie will keep twisting your arm and make sure it's one step ahead of you. Of course, if someone were to twist your arm several times in a short time span, you would probably begin to feel annoyed and try to make that person stop. Now You See Me 2 doesn't know when enough's enough. Twist after twist comes at you like a bunch of playing card projectiles, and trying to piece the convoluted plot puzzle together begins to feel like walking through the seemingly endless card maze you see on the poster.
- The implausible visuals. Like its predecessor Now You See Me, Now You See Me 2 believes magicians are capable of defying laws of physics and general logic. When the Horsemen are stealing the chip to give to Mabry, they put it within a playing card and continue to play hot potato with one another as they are being searched by guards. The card goes through their clothing and they fling it to one another like a frisbee across the room, with nobody other than them being able to notice anything. Next thing someone will tell me is that playing cards are also acceptable for playing fetch with your dog. Dylan Rhodes repeats a trick used in the first film, where he gets out of a pair of handcuffs just by swinging his arms. How come he can't do the same thing later on when he is handcuffed again? Not to say all of the magic tricks are implausible, but a few too many fail to get a pass.
For those seeking visuals thrills and nothing more than an entertaining time, Now You See Me 2 will deliver. But if you want thrills and entertainment along with a quality plot, look elsewhere. Daniel Radcliffe and Mark Ruffalo deliver strong performances among the star-studded cast, but an over-reliance on plot twists and visuals that will make you scratch your head in confusion make Now You See Me 2 seem too much like a repeat of its predecessor, which suffered from almost identical problems.
Recommend? Only if you need to kill some time
Here you'll find my reviews on just about any film you may have seen. I try to avoid major spoilers as much as possible. I structure my reviews in the following way: