DIR: Jon M. Chu • WRI: Ed Solomon • PRO: Bobby Cohen, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci • DOP: Peter Deming • ED: Stan Salfas • MUS: Brian Tyler• DES: Sharon Seymour • CAST: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson, Daniel Radcliffe, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan
Much like a six-year-old trying to tell a joke, Now You See Me 2 starts off pleasantly enough, even amusing at times, before slowly descending into a rambling mess that ultimately fails to stick the landing. Collapsing under its own premise, there are more gaps of logic in this film than Donald Trump’s policies on, well, everything. That said, as long as you suspend your form of thinking, tilt your head to the side, and squint your eyes juuusst right, then you’re in for a pretty … ok time.
The Four Horsemen are back, sans Isla Fisher, having been lying in wait for a year since putting their nemesis Thaddeus (Morgan Freeman) in prison during the events of the first film. Turns out Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is not too hot at just waiting around and expresses his dissatisfaction with the group’s leader, FBI agent Dylan (Mark Ruffalo), to the Eye, a mysterious organisation of magicians that orchestrates the group’s missions. Atlas’ grievances are pushed aside, however, in light of a new threat. Along with newest member Lula May (Lizzy Caplan), Atlas, Dylan, Merritt (Woody Harrelson), and Jack (Dave Franco) must reveal to the public that a new software about to hit the market steals its user’s data for the company to sell to the highest bidder.
Of course, this being a story about magicians and illusionists, nothing is actually as it seems and thus the film’s problems begin. Convoluted subplot after convoluted subplot begin to emerge, draining the film of its energy and sense of fun. Like a badly paced magic trick, the film’s pay-offs never equate to the promise of their build-up. From a technical point of view, there are some impressive feats of illusion and deception performed throughout but the purpose of these tricks becomes increasingly unclear as the film progresses. Some tricks are essential for pushing the plot forward, but others just come across as unnecessary flourishes for a group of people working against the clock. Nonetheless, the visuals are one of the more impressive aspects of the film, though the quieter, in-between scenes offer little to for the audience to chew on.
Among the films many problems is the writing, in particular the character writing. In fact, let’s talk about this for a moment: Hollywood does not know how to write women. This is a fact that is sadly proven more than disproven with every mainstream film release. Lula May, the only female member of the Horsemen, exists solely to provide some eye-candy for her male counterpoints and to crack obnoxious, annoying jokes. But, hey, at least she’s ‘not like other girls’. How do we know? She literally says that exact goddamn line at one point in the film. If ever there was a piece of dialogue more written by a middle-aged man, it was that very one. True, this isn’t a film dedicated to providing in-depth, complex character studies but, under-realised though they are, at least the male characters play an active role within the story and have no expectations weighing on them because of their gender. Lula May is introduced as being as equally talented as the other Horsemen, yet her talents are the least utilised throughout the film. And why is it when a female character enters a male dominated group, she’s immediately presented as a romantic interest? It’s 2016, we’re all tired of this nonsense.
Overall, Jon M. Chu’s film has enough flash and razzmatazz to keep the audience passingly entertained but little to offer in terms of an engaging story – or indeed, one that just makes sense.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Now You See Me 2 is released 8th July 2016