“The eye, it may not lie. But don’t think for a moment it can’t be lied to.”
Picking up a year after the four horsemen masterfully outwitted the FBI and won over the hearts of the public with the ethically charged magic, Now You See Me 2 opens with our illusionists down a (wo)man and in hiding, awaiting orders from the eye as they practice for a comeback performance of the ages. But, even in the world of magic, things don’t always go according to plan.
Centered heavily around the childhood of Ruffalo’s Dylan Rhodes, the film ride high on emotion - most noticeably that of revenge. While the play works for a majority of the time, the added element creates a layer of impulse, sending the film in a thousand different directions without a real sense of its final destination. In some regards it works, as it keeps the audience guessing, but the generic motivation behind such movements allows the story to show its hand early on, leaving audiences with a keen sense of where things are headed…even if the characters themselves appear a bit lost.
Caplan, who joins “Four Horseman” veterans Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and David Franco, proves a strong replacement for original cast member Isla Fisher. Her introduction to the franchise was quick and seamless, with new director Jon M. Chu allowing the information to pass, but refusing to dwell on it.
After the group’s comeback to thwarted by Walter Mabry, a pompous billionaire played flawlessly by magic alum Daniel Radcliffe, the film switches gears as the gang finds themselves unexpected dropped (literally) in the middle of a kitchen in the heart of China. The script bounces between the team’s effort to get back home and Rhodes’ backstory, providing a layered story that proves just as much mystery and thriller as is does magic.
A film centered around magic is complex, mostly from a presentation standpoint. Fortunately Chu, who takes over direction duties from Louis Leterrier, does a brilliant job at teasing the audience enough without giving away his hand. And while the film occasionally ventures into the realm of full-fledges gimmick, the characters allow the story to progress nicely, offering up a unique experience for those who enjoy the cat-and-mouse affair, with a dark sense of comedy underlying the tension.
Now You See Me 2 is not a complete film. It suffers from countless missteps and loses sight of the prize more times that I can remember. But the film boasts Morgan Freeman and Michael Cain, two iconic performers that almost always make things better. In the grand scheme of things, the film is fun and entertaining - and for most that is enough.