Now You See Me 2, 2016.
Directed by Jon M. Chu.
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman.
The Four Horsemen, now with a new recruit, are taken hostage by a tech wizard who forces them to carry out a seemingly impossible heist.
At the end of the last film, it is revealed that FBI agent Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) was the Fool; the omnipotent being, capable to hatch a convoluted, albeit nonsensical, plan to unite the greatest of Earth’s magician. Dylan had managed to lure in the Four Horseman: Danny (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson), Jack (Dave Franco), and Henley (Isla Fisher). It was, quite frankly, a tacked on ending that made minimal sense, and created greater plot holes to an already messy story. In other words, it was the daft, blockbuster spectacle that came prior to this “conclusion” which made the first film at joy. It’s a shame that the Jem and the Holograms director thought this was the highlight of the film.
Director Jon M. Chu (Step Up series) begins the film’s focus on Dylan’s back story: one that consists of a deceased father (who was also a renowned magician), a 30 year vendetta against Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman), and an increasingly erratic personality brought on by his dual role as FBI agent/mystical entity. This sounds heavy, albeit dull, and you’d be absolutely right! Much of the fun that made the first film a joy is largely removed as this (sub)plot line strings the film together that slows down the film, and offers only a semblance of tension.
The film only worsens in faux-tension with the film’s new antagonist Walter (Daniel Radcliffe). Despite a strong introduction as a sheltered spoiled sociopath, who takes such gleeful delight in arrogantly belittling the Four Horsemen, his performance soon descends into a wave of empty threats. His plan is to force them to steal a precious computer chip so he is able to hack the worlds computer system (90s Y2K thriller, anyone?). Radcliffe projects such gusto, and joy, as he tells them of the plan that it becomes his strongest moment of the film. When it’s time for him to up the ante, and to become a genuine threat, Radcliffe cannot deliver. The poorly-timed shouts and dead-eyed stares mark this an uncomfortable performance. Moreover, it would appear Chu is uncertain which of Walter’s dialogue is funny or creepy, and the audience is left with an unthreatening antagonist – therefore more tension dissipates.
Speaking of the Four Horsemen, we no longer have Henley from the previous film, but now have Lula (Lizzy Caplan) to replace her. Much like Chu’s direction with Radcliffe, Caplan’s performance here is awkward. It’s abundantly clear she’s there to provide the comic relief. This would be fine if Chu knew what to do with her comedic dialogue and actions. With many of her gags either going on for too long (notably the seemingly endless infiltration of the compound where the chip is located) or are given no direction (her awkward advances towards Jack doesn’t become much until the final moments of the film). To be fair, the rest of the cast aren’t treated any better.
Now You See Me 2 is the sequel to a far better, yet moderately average, heist movie. Yes the twists and turns are in greater numbers, and there are plenty of chuckles to be had, but none of them are earned, and Jon M. Chu’s uninspired direction marks this film a slog to sit through. Think of this film as Oceans 13’s ridiculousness with heavy family drama that strings the magic tricks together.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★