Saturday, June 11, 2016

Review: Now You See Me 2

Image courtesy of Summit Entertainment. 
"Now You See Me 2" is a little lightweight in the story department and follows the steps of what most sequels driven by box office are meant to do. It also has a number of tricks up its sleeve, a handful of which are fairly enjoyable and clever.

If your aim is to watch a movie in which all manner of elaborate sleights of hand are carried out, then you'll likely not be disappointed with this second film in the franchise. However, if you are hoping for something in the way of character motivation and development, then you might find that this picture is much like one of its characters' magic tricks - when you close your hand on it, you'll find nothing but air.

That's not to say that "Now You See Me 2," in which director Jon M. Chu has taken over for Louis Letterier, isn't skillfully made in terms of what it sets out to do. Although many of the tricks performed by the Horsemen (Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson and Lizzy Caplan as a spunky newbie) are explained - perhaps in too much detail and, in effect, ruining the stunt - others are clearly impossible and mostly left to the imagination.

The film opens with Ruffalo's FBI agent/Horseman attempting to continue to lead the bureau off the trail of his compadres, while Morgan Freeman's magic debunker plots his own revenge from a jail cell and teams up with a bevy of new villains, including a rich scion played by Daniel Radcliffe as the brattiest heavy in recent memory.

The film opens with a flashback to Ruffalo's younger self watching his magician father attempt a daring stunt that has a tragic result and this informs much of the twisty plot throughout the film. Many secrets are unveiled during the picture's course - some clever, others obvious - although this still goes little way in giving the Horsemen personalities outside of their abilities - for example, Harrelson's capacity to put people into trances, Franco's to throw cards as if they were ninja stars.

And since we know so little about these characters, while the picture has a fair amount of suspense that results from kidnappings, tight situations and daring magic stunts, it mostly comes from a heavy dosage of plotting, rather than our ability to empathize with or feel drawn in by the characters and, therefore, care about the binds in which they find themselves.

As I've mentioned, there are some fun and clever tricks in the film, most notably a heist involving a chip inserted into a playing card that the Horsemen must sneak out of a vault and the finale, which involves a group of villains and our heroes in a plane.

So, what I'm saying is you could do a whole lot worse for a night out at the movies. "Now You See Me 2" has its equal share of decent moments and flaws. It's well made and features a cast full of faces you'll likely be glad to see sharing screen time - Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman always class up any joint - and doesn't take itself too seriously. The magic in the film may be of the manufactured kind, but I suppose that's better than none at all.

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