The Horseman are back, and this time they take their brand of stage magic world wide. Is it worth your time?
Back in the summer of 2013, Now You See Me was a bit of a surprise hit, taking hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide at the box office. Like a lot of people, I had no expectations of the film, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I even watched it again recently, and had a fun time again. Three years later we have a sequel, and it’s one I am definitely on the fence about. Sure, I want to see more of The Horsemen and their antics, but the first film was pretty unique, and a sequel will either be a pointless retread or will be totally new and fresh, in turn losing the original charm. That is unless they can catch lightening in a bottle again. Well, can they?
Since the events of the first film a year earlier, the Horsemen have been in hiding, slowly preparing for another series of illusions but becoming impatient at being kept in the dark. They are now members of The Eye, the mysterious group who have protected and nurtured the talented magicians of each generation, and promote the use of illusions and magic for the good of society. Their orders from the Eye are going through their leader Dylan Rhodes, (Mark Ruffalo) who is still working for the FBI, “investigating” The Horsemen’s raids from the first film. Rhodes’s new boss Natalie Austin (Sanaa Lathan) humours his increasingly outlandish claims – his latest idea involves blurry pictures of a pigeon across New York – but Agent Cowan (David Warshofsky) is suspicious of the lack of progress Rhodes has made. Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) has been contacting The Eye directly, trying to get more information about what is next for what he sees as “His Horsemen”. Meanwhile, mentalist Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and card sharp Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) have been teaching each other their skills in their downtime, with varying degrees of success.
The Eye finally provides a bigger picture for the Horsemen, just as Dylan decides to bring underground magician Lulu May (Lizzy Caplan) to replace Isla Fisher’s Henley Reeves. Their next target is revealed as OCTA, a technology company about to launch a new phone that will steal users private data, and particular its owner Owen Case (Ben Lamb). The Horsemen will hijack the product launch in front of the collected media, and will stop the information stealing phone from reaching the market.
Obviously, after a year away from the spotlight, the big reveal of The Horsemen’s return at the product launch causes huge excitement. However, their interruption is itself interrupted, and they are full exposed (including Dylan’s double agent status) with the FBI tipped off about their whereabouts. The Horsemen manage to escape, but end up being captured by Case’s supposedly dead partner Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who forces them to steal back the technology behind the OCTA phones.
The now disgraced Dylan has to turn to Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) to help track them down. Despite framing Bradley and sending him to jail, Dylan is still haunted by the death of his father 30 years earlier. Can Bradley really help Dylan to save the Horsemen? Or will the FBI get to them first? And with Michael Caine’s Arthur Tressler still looking for revenge, are any of them safe?
Firstly, let me say Woody Harrelson is really entertaining, and Mark Ruffalo actually does a little bit of acting! Morgan Freeman is always welcome, and Daniel Radcliffe does alright – he might just have a future in film after all. He should do more magic based films, I reckon that could be a successful avenue for him to go down. Lizzy Caplan makes sure Fisher isn’t missed too badly.
The film whips along quite well, with some impressive set pieces building to a rather nifty finale. The script is littered with a nice amount of banter, but doesn’t seem too concerned with getting from A to B to C, rather just having a character tell another character to go somewhere. We also have some back story reveals that, while not quite retconning, don’t really match what we saw in the first film. I’m always careful with spoilers, but the storyline of Dylan Rhodes’s father was dealt with in the first film pretty conclusively, it would have been best left as it was. The new information we get here doesn’t really hold true.
Strangely, the film that this reminded me of was Fast 7, and it’s not just the mysterious technological McGuffin that leads to a worldwide search. If this becomes a continuing franchise (and work is already underway on a third), I can see the ensemble cast growing, villains rejoining the gang as partners, and the magic shows being minimized while the gang become globe-trotting thieves. If Isla Fisher returns in later installments, well, I called it here first! They just about get away with a slightly bloated roster here (look at the posters, that’s not a cheap cast), so it could be a tricky balancing act in the future. Ocean’s Thirteen was better than Ocean’s Twelve, so if it’s three-and-out, then maybe it’ll be an enjoyable trilogy to look back on.
Now You See Me 2 is again a very entertaining film, however the tag line from the first film (“Look closely, because the closer you think you are, the less you will actually see”) that made it so much fun is actually the main problem with this film. DON’T look too closely, just enjoy the ride. If you look too closely, the plot holes and contrivances (some deliberate, some not) are pretty glaring. I don’t think this will hold up to multiple viewings (there’s a card -throwing scene that doesn’t make ANY sense!) but you will enjoy the ride at least once.
Now You See Me 2 is out in cinemas now
Until next time, stay gold, Ponyboy, stay gold. See you soonish.
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PS As a treat for reading all the way to the end, here’s the David Brent music video that is playing in front of Now You See Me 2.
(It’s from the same distribution company in case you’re wondering!)