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New Release Review - NOW YOU SEE ME 2

On the run from the law, the four horsemen find themselves blackmailed into carrying out a heist.





Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: John Chu

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman



The cast assembled here is one of the most impressive ensembles you'll see all year, but save for the bubbly Caplan and the always alive Radcliffe, there's a palpable lack of enthusiasm on display. The horsemen share no discernible chemistry, and Eisenberg delivers every line as though his director is pointing a gun at his head out of shot.


If Now You See Me promised an illusionist riff on Ocean's Eleven, only to instead deliver a dull police procedural, its sequel veers closer to such a pitch, focussing on its central quartet of tricksters rather than the authorities hunting them down. Unfortunately, it's no more engaging, thanks mainly to a script that ties itself in knots spinning an overly convoluted narrative rather than focussing on its character dynamics.



Set a year after the events of the first movie, the four horsemen are in hiding, following clues left by the mysterious organisation 'The Eye', while being helped out by magic FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo). Rhodes act as something of a Charlie to the horsemen's Angels, assigning them missions to take down various corrupt businessmen using their unique skills. Joined by a new member of the team, Lizzy Caplan's Lula May (taking the place of Isla Fisher, who decides to sit this one out), J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) infiltrate the launch of a new piece of software designed to secretly steal its users' details. Rather than exposing a corrupt tech guru, they themselves are exposed by a mysterious figure. Fleeing, they find themselves somehow magically transported to Macau, where a young billionaire, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who lost millions due to the events of the first film, blackmails them into pulling off an elaborate heist.

Now You See Me 2 feels like a relic of an earlier, more innocent era. With its protagonists jetting off to Macau and London, it's a descendant of the sort of 'travelogue' narratives once popular in the age before jet travel became affordable for the general public. Its magic theme and bucketload of celebs lend it the feel of a ramshackle Saturday night variety show from the 1980s.



In this cynical and clued in age, does magic still carry appeal? Today, 'Magic's Secrets Revealed' type shows draw more interest from TV viewers than actual magic shows. Everyone wants answers; wonder is dead. Magic is particularly deceased when it comes to mainstream cinema. In the past, Hollywood presented us with stunts that made us query how they were pulled off without loss of life, but thanks to CG, nothing impresses us anymore. In the '80s, 'behind the scenes' shows were popular on TV, introducing us to the stuntmen and FX wizards that made the movies of Lucas and Spielberg so thrilling. Now, who wants to watch a crew of techies show us how they sat at their desks for six months to create a set-piece? For movie magic we now look to low budget foreign language cinema, films like The Raid that ellicit those "What did I just see?" reactions.

It's impossible to be impressed by any of the 'magic' on display in the Now You See Me franchise, because this isn't a live show. Nobody's leaving this film asking "how did they do that?", yet these movies persist with this baffling delusion. The series' template appears to be modelled on Scooby Doo, as the horsemen pull off elaborate tricks that appear supernatural in nature, only to provide the most unconvincing explanations - "Aah, we did it with mirrors!"



The cast assembled here is one of the most impressive ensembles you'll see all year, but save for the bubbly Caplan (who, in a commendable reversal of the usual gender dynamics, spends the movie attempting to get in Franco's pants) and the always alive Radcliffe, there's a palpable lack of enthusiasm on display. The horsemen share no discernible chemistry, and Eisenberg delivers every line as though his director is pointing a gun at his head out of shot (he's a fine and interesting actor, but a movie star he most certainly is not). It doesn't help that they're stuck with a script that shows little interest in developing these characters, as it's too busy getting from one plot point to the next - think North by North West if Hitchcock actually cared about the MacGuffin. 

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