It’s been three years since audiences flocked to the largely forgettable yet surprising box office hit Now You See Me, a crime thriller about a Robin Hood-esque band of highly skilled magicians who perform elaborate cons to rob the rich of their money. After taking in roughly $350 million worldwide, the film has apparently merited a sequel – the equally forgettable Now You See Me 2.
Jon M. Chu, who has made a career of making unwanted sequels (G.I. Joe: Retaliation and Step Up 2 and 3) replaces Louis Leterrier as director here. The transition in style is smooth and hardly noticeable. Similarly, the story is more or less a retread of the first film: The Four Horsemen emerge out of hiding to perform another elaborate heist. However, their con is foiled by the supposedly deceased Walter Mabry (bizarrely brought to life by Daniel Radcliffe). Subsequently kidnapped by Mabry, The Horsemen must retrieve a MacGuffin in order to save their lives.
Above is an extremely simplified plot synopsis. To give a complete sense of the film’s plot is difficult. Much like the elaborate magic show performances by The Horsemen, Now You See Me 2 confuses complexity and intricacy with a hodgepodge of implausible twists and turns. In many ways, Now You See Me 2 revises its predecessor in a way that trivializes its existence (if you want to know why, you’ll sadly have to see the film).
For a film that relies on the gift of its talented and colourful cast, The Horsemen and their conflicts are paper-thin. Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) wants to replace Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), the FBI agent who was revealed as a member of The Horsemen, as leader. McKinney (Woody Harrelson) faces off against his twin brother (also played by Harrelson, albeit flamboyantly), who is working for Mabry. Rhodes faces two conflicts, both of which materialize weakly: his dual identity as an FBI agent/Horseman, and his continuing battle with Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), the incarcerated former magic debunker who Rhodes blames his father’s death on. The two remaining cast members lack major conflicts: Dave Franco returns as Jack Wilder, whose main feature is that he’s played by Dave Franco. Lizzy Caplan (Mean Girls, The Interview) plays Lula, who replaces Isla Fisher. Her main features are that she’s quirky, fun, and new!
Given that Now You See Me 3 has been announced, fans of the first film may want to seek this unwanted sequel out. In addition to its weak characters and plotting, Now You See Me 2 simply offers nothing new: it’s a mere unsolicited encore performance.
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Mark Barber: @WorstCinephile