Directed by: Jon M. Chu
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
Rated: PG-13 for violence and some language
2013’s “Now You See Me” was a top-notch, fun blend of magic shows and a heist movie. Directed by Louis Leterrier (“The Transporter), it was a romp of a film, packed with cleverness, intrigue, and Robin-Hood stage magicians scamming bad people. The sequel, “Now You See Me 2,” brings back almost everyone from the first film, and wisely doesn’t try to recreate the rest of its predecessor. It’s still a stage-magic heist movie, but this time the magicians are desperate and on the run, and the bad people hold most of the cards. It’s a fun movie – not as good as the first film, but definitely a solid sequel.
A note: if you haven’t seen the first film, the setup for the sequel has massive spoilers. If you want to watch it and not know how some of the mysteries turn out, stop reading now!
Our protagonists are almost all back – Henley (Isla Fisher) has left the Horsemen, but Danny (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson), and Jack (Dave Franco) have been living underground, waiting for orders from Dylan (Mark Ruffalo), their contact in The Eye. They wind up with a new partner, Lula (Lizzy Caplan), and orders for a comeback show. However, they get interrupted while sticking it to another rich bad guy, and wind up in the clutches of one Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, who seems to delight in taking roles as far from Harry Potter as possible). He wants them to steal a high-tech gadget for him, and has ways of making them comply.
Meanwhile, billionaire Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) and magician-debunker Thaddeus Bradly (Morgan Freeman), still displeased about their treatment in the first film, are plotting revenge against the Horsemen. Dylan’s coworkers at the FBI are increasingly suspicious that he’s always one step behind the Horsemen, and his cover is dangerously close to being blown.
These various plotlines are deftly interwoven, and the magic is as showy and fun as ever. The filmmakers have said that about 85% of the tricks in the film were actual stage magic bits, and only 15% was CGI. Even knowing that it’s a trick, the illusions are still impressive, and they range from basic sleight-of-hand to massive spectacles performed in front of hundreds of people. If you love a good magic trick, you will not be disappointed.
The actors all step into their roles well, and while they don’t seem to be having as much fun as in the first film, they’re a pleasure to watch. Eisenberg is typecast as the highly-intelligent antisocial control-freak because he’s good at it, and Danny is a perfect specimen of the type. Ruffalo, Harrelson, and Franco all reprise their roles with ease, and it’s a joy to see Caplan’s comedic talents on the big screen (comedy fans may remember her from “Party Down” and “New Girl”).
This is not a typical summer blockbuster, and if you want big explosions and gunfights, look elsewhere. If you like stage magic or heist movies, and want laughs mixed in with your intrigue, don’t miss “Now You See Me 2.”