An exercise in mediocrity, Now You See Me 2 is a sequel that fails to ever raise above its clichéd plot and predictable twists – compelling visuals and strong editing may give it an edge but I predict that this wannabe franchise will itself disappear in time. Much like a magic trick, we are offered only a momentary pleasure that soon unravels when you begin to give it even an ounce of thought.
I rather enjoyed 2013’s Now You See Me, a visually pleasing mystery with a bizarre premise of Robin Hood style magicians. Problems arise however in making this a franchise, these protagonists were never made complex enough to require more than one film of development and all we are left with is a bare, repetitive sequel that offers no new insight into any character: It is simply more of the same. The impressive cast feels wasted, clearly having fun with the unique premise but at the mercy of a rushed plot that never gives them justice; particularly Daniel Radcliffe who deserves more than what is ultimately a small role. Even stars like Eisenberg and Harrelson are side-lined to fit in the numerous magical set pieces with only Ruffalo emerging with a complete and satisfying arc that delivers some of the films sparse heart. Lizzy Caplan offers an energetic turn as newcomer Lula but again is confined to a simplistic arc. As for Caine and Freeman, it is glaringly obvious they are only here for a pay check. The twists also fall short with the two major revelations during the third act being predictable and near laughable as we are expected to be stunned.
Despite its faults, I must merit the brilliant effects work and stunning set pieces involving card tricks and illusions – the speed of the camera and effective use of sound kept them engaging and thrilling even if on an admittedly primal level. The pacing builds effectively to these moments but ultimately the film suffers for it, dragging in between and leaving us wanting for more than clichéd romance and dull humour. I also admire director Jon M.Chu’s implementation of magic tricks into action scenes particularly chase and heist sequences. This allows a more cinematic quality than the mostly stage set acts of the first film.
A generic summer sequel, Now You See Me 2 is bland and forgettable but harmless – true to its name you will be unlikely to experience more than a 2 hour distraction.