Now You See Me 2
Starring Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Daniel Radcliffe
You may not know who Jon M. Chu is, you probably haven’t seen any of his movies. He is the director behind such reboots like Jem and the Holograms (18% on rottentomatoes.com), sequels such as G.I. Joe: Retaliation (28%), but let us not forget his historic collaborations with Justin Bieber on “Believe” and “Never Say Never”. It’s only fitting that Chu would be tapped to take over the Now You See Me franchise for French director Louis Leterrier. In full disclosure I found the 2013 original “overly complicated”, “silly”, and “predictable”. However, when you compare the two films, it’s clear that Leterrier had a vison and style that at least made the first tempting. Now You See Me 2 suffers one of the years’ worst sequel fates (and that’s saying a lot since 2016 is breaking the sequel record).
Henley has left the horsemen as they have gone underground following their last stunt that left Thaddeus Bradley (Freeman) behind bars. Team leader Daniel Atlas (Eisenberg) grows restless, wanting to continue their Robin Hood quest. FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo), the secret horsemen, is feeling the pressure at the bureau. Their first reappearance goes horribly wrong, leaving them all exposed, including the reveal that Jack Wilder (Franco) is actually still among the living. The horsemen are forced to learn a new game, play by different rules as Rhodes runs a revenge plot that is anything but what it seems.
For those who did enjoy the original, it was likely due to the on stage stunts and fancy camera work. You can forget that right now, because this follow up has none of that. Part 2 has an entirely new structure. It’s more like a Bourne film or a “prove your innocence” thriller. The screenplay is even worse than the original, and every time someone says “The horsemen” with a straight face, I just wanted to laugh at how ridiculous that sounds. “Are you listening, horsemen?” There is a card toss midway through the film that lasts an eternity. It’s not just that it’s such an eye-rolling, yea right moment, but that they spend so much time on something so frivolous. The running time for Now You See Me 2 is a heavy burden at two hours due to the pacing and uneventful narrative.
This dumbed down revenge plot, in place of magic, reveals the desperation to squeeze whatever they can out of a film that was a surprise hit in the first place. “We have each other” they declare in one of the films many infuriating pieces of dialogue. From the opening moments that take us back to Rhodes 1984 childhood, desperately reinventing Bradley’s character just so they can feature Freeman more. To glossing over Henley’s departure (Isla Fisher was pregnant and unavailable) and introducing a new actress just to fill the female quota. Now You See Me 2 is a frustrating, clogged and disordered film that can’t decide between regurgitation or branching into new territory. It’s the viewer that suffers the most during this painful transition period.
You’ll want a magician to make you vanish from the theater about halfway through.