Despite missing out on a golden opportunity to call the film “Now You Don’t,” the Horsemen return from their exile only to be thrown straight into a new box of cards. After eluding the FBI for several years and framing Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) for their crimes, thanks largely to “Fifth Horseman” Dylan Rhodes’ (Mark Ruffalo) misdirection from inside the bureau, the team is itching to get back onto the stage. They get the chance when Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan) are lured to perform a public takedown of a tech magnate. However, their flamboyant act is a trap, as Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) uses their outing to blackmail them into performing a seemingly impossible heist.
Which is where NOW YOU SEE ME 2 significantly differs from its predecessor. While there were heist elements to the first film, there was also a mystery around the Four Horseman and half the fun was in finding out how they were getting away with their “magic.” Here we are following the group as underdog heroes, rather than dubious anti-heroes, and the primary focus of the sequel is a caper in the vein of the Ocean’s Eleven franchise. Now having to follow these characters more closely, but keep their final reveal until the bitter end, scribe Ed Solomon (co-writer of the original) occasionally baffles with nonsensical occurrences and MacGuffins. Take for example the twin brother of McKinney, which gives Harrelson a chance to play two characters, both of whom are hams. With Ruffalo’s Dylan now on the side of the Horseman, we also miss an antagonist that we secretly want to see win.
Make no mistake: NOW YOU SEE ME 2 is an incredibly silly film, but while it isn’t always self-aware of this fact, it’s nevertheless endearing because of its devotion to that special brand of self-satisfying denouement. While the greatest trick this sequel pulls is making the memorable Isla Fisher disappear completely, and sliding Lizzy Caplan into place without too much fuss, there is also something uniquely charming about the series of final reveals and wrap-ups, each of which will make you smile despite the fact that they don’t actually make any sense upon closer inspection. Like a magic trick, you’ll believe that the curtain has been pulled back and some clever comforting truth has been revealed, even though you know at your core it’s all smoke and mirrors.
NOW YOU SEE ME 2 releases in Australia on 2 June 2016 from eOne Films. It releases in the US on 10 June from Summit Entertainment.
2015 | US | DIR: John M. Chu | WRITERS: Ed Solomon | CAST: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Helder Rei, Jay Chou, Sanaa Lathan, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman | DISTRIBUTOR: eOne Films (AUS) | RUNNING TIME: 115 minutes | RATING:★★★ (6/10)