The last time we saw Dylan (Mark Ruffalo) and his Four Horsemen, they disappeared after jumping into a carousel. Now they’re back with more “magic” and tomfoolery in Now You See Me 2.
One year after the events of 2013’s Now You See Me, Dylan is somehow still employed by the FBI and leading a team, led by Deputy Director Austin (Sanaa Lathan), that’s searching for the Horsemen. Three of the Horsemen, Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and Jack (Dave Franco) are in hiding, awaiting instructions from the magic puppet masters known as The Eye. Mysteriously missing from the group is Henley (Isla Fisher). Her disappearance is yadda-yadda’d during the introduction of her replacement Lula (Lizzy Caplan).
This time around, the Four Horsemen are like the hacktivist group Anonymous…if Anonymous were also a group of magicians mixed with a little Beyonce’s showmanship – seriously people react like they’re at a Beyonce show when the Horsemen take the stage. Their target is tech giant OCTA, a company that plans on hijacking their user’s data and selling it on the black market. In the middle of the Horsemen’s illusion filled expose, their presentation goes wrong and the FBI crashes the party. In an attempt to flee the FBI, the group ends up in China.
The person behind their miraculous trip to China is Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a man who claims to have created the microchip OCTA is planning to use. Mabry’s reason for brining the Horsemen to China is to use their skills to pull off a heist and steal the chip for him.
NYSM2 is at its best when it feels like Oceans 11 with magic. The best magic filled action sequences come courtesy of Dylan evading a group of goons in a Chinese market. The entire sequence is as equally implausible as it is fun. The heists scenes would be a lot more fun but they’re missing the explanation of how difficult the heist is. Every great magic trick has a good “turn” that sets up how extraordinary the feat is. NYSM2 is missing the Ethan Hunt, Mission Impossible moment when someone says, “That’s impossible!” and Hunt replies “Oh we haven’t got to the best part yet…”, followed by a montage of futuristic tech and every single impossible security measure they’ll have to bypass. Those scenes MI are as predictable as Tom Cruise running, but the payoff is during the actual heist and it pays off every time. The heists in this film are missing the weight that makes them feel like their skills are actually needed.
The film really flounders when it tries to be too clever. Instead of just being a straight forward heist film, its paced with unnecessary storylines and characters – Dylan and his father’s back story, Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) entire storyline, and Woody Harrelson wearing a bad wig and Stanley Tucci’s Hunger Games teeth to play Merritt’s twin brother – I hope he got two checks for that.
Everything really goes off the rails during the last 30 minutes as the big reveals roll out one after another. In an attempt to be clever, the story does not make sense and the entire first movie makes even less sense. It feels like someone made this after reading the Now You See Me plot synopsis on IMDB. The continuity between the characters, storylines and motivations is murky at best.
The biggest sin is the movies absolute waste of Dave Franco. Franco is funny, humorous, and incredibly charismatic, yet he’s sidelined for Woody Harrelson in a wig and worthless plot points. He’s too talented to be stuck throwing cards like Gambit for two hours. Put him in disguises and let him be funny for a scene or two. It would’ve really helped the movie.
Now You See Me 2 could’ve been a fun heist comedy, instead it’s a jumble mess that’s entertaining at points. It feels more like a two hour travel brochure for China than a sequel to a popular movie. Not to mention a lot what happens relies on chance encounters that are later explained as a “plan”. Atlas has a line in the first film where he says, “The more you think you see, the easier it’ll be to fool you.” In actuality, they more they show, the more foolish these films become.