NOW YOU SEE ME 2 (USA 2016) ***
Directed by Jon M. Chu
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Lizzy Caplan, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman
Review by Gilbert Seah
NOW YOU SEE ME 2, the sequel to the unexpected hit NOW YOU SEE ME has the same 4 horsemen return for another round of magic trickery to astound audiences, whether they love magic or not.
Except for Lizzy Caplan taking over the female role from Isla Fisher, most of the original cast returns. Jesse Eisenberg plays the main role of Daniel “Danny” Atlas, the group leader followed by Woody Harrelson as Chase, Dave Franco as Jack Wilder, Caplan as Lula and Mark Ruffalo as the FBI mole. There are two sets of bad guys here. One is the FBI – a favourite target organization hated by (most) Americans and non-Americas alike. The other is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) an unethical magnate that the Horsemen want to expose for unethical tactics, together with his father, Arthur Tresslr (Michael Caine).
Performances are key to a movie like this. It is not surprising for the filmmakers to assemble such an an impressive cast, all of whom inject sufficient seriousness and energy into the venture. But Radcliffe (HARRY POTTER) looks ill at ease at playing a bad guy as does Michael Caine.
The magic tricks performed in the film are especially outlandish. The are also performed really quickly with the solutions provided ever quicker. When the horsemen first appear again in public, they chose the most famous venues in London such as Trafalgar Square. The tricks include making rain disappear and people transported by plane. But the trickery is explained with the solution often so simple. The disappearing rain is accomplished through rain machines and strobe lights.
The best trick on display involves the horsemen forced to flee from their enemy. They leap off a rooftop through a chute and land up in China. If this act appears impossible, the revelation of how this occurs illustrates the power of imagination in a script that writer Ed Solomon constantly impresses. Though the film runs more than 2 hours, it is too long even though one hardly feels it.
Just as magic often uses doubles, the script cleverly adds a component of Merritt’s evil twin brother, again played by Harrelson, hamming it out the best he can in two different roles.
The business aspect of the film? NOW YOU SEE ME 2 hopes to pull in some big bucks for the flailing Lionsgate, the studio responsible for HUNGER GAMES and the TWILIGHT films, now in dire need of a big hit after the shares took a plunge last earnings session after a drop in quarterly revenue. But the bottom line is that this film provides just more of the same tricks – nothing more, nothing less. The first film was a surprise hit taking the box-office by storm. Lionsgate has lumped a larger amount of $90 million into the sequel, a sort of ‘we need a hit regardless of expense’. The film is up against stiff competition with WARCRAFT and CONJURING 2 both opening this same weekend. Looks like Lionsgate needs some magic on its own.