Get ready for the first great entertainment at the movies this summer which trades comic book action heroes for the lords of legerdemain known as The Four Horsemen: NOW YOU SEE ME 2! I couldn’t take my eyes off this movie which captures the magic of, well, magic! This elaborately tricky plot unfurled itself in double time, criss-crossing the globe while filling every inch of the big screen with a maze of derring do, sleight of hand and illusion as these potentates of prestidigitation set out to save the world from technological treachery!
NOW YOU SEE ME 2 is the sequel to the 2013 original and reunites the world famous magic men who disappeared at the end of the last film: Jesse Eisenberg as ringleader J.Daniel Atlas, Woody Harrelson as ace hypnotist Merritt McKinney, Dave Franco as Jack Wilder– killer with a deck of cards, plus newcomer (replacing Isla Fisher) Lizzie Caplan as Lula, a beauty with a sense of humor and multitudinous tricks up her sleeve. The way she introduces herself to the proceedings is delightfully shocking and she gets funnier and more unpredictable at every turn. She also has an amazing wardrobe into which she seamlessly morphs from scene to scene. (All continuity issues must be assumed to be magical.)
The plot doesn’t thicken– it’s packed from the get go. I didn’t remember in great detail exactly where we left off in the original, but no matter; screenwriter Ed Solomon who wrote the original, efficiently catches us up on a need to know schedule so we never feel we’re held hostage to plodding exposition. If anything, I wish the movie had stopped to catch its breath once in awhile– so I could have.
In this sequel, The Horsemen as the “Robin Hoods” of conjuring, have resurfaced once again to entertain the masses by mounting an amazing spectacle in which they publicly debunk real life scammers who would pull the wool over our eyes. The script lets us in on just enough to satisfy our curiosity about “how,” these magicians do it, even as they proceed to demystify the cheats among us– and still mystify us! All of the abracadabra takes place under the watchful gaze of THE EYE a mysterious entity who gathered the original team together.
Here, The Horsemen have been pressured by mogul Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) into pulling off the most absurdly difficult heist yet in order to secure their freedom and hamper a tech magnate’s plan to steal our private info and control our lives. This leads to one of the most inventive, suspense-filled, labyrinthine set pieces I’ve ever seen involving sleight of hand, playing cards, nerves of steel, and impossibly intricate coordination! My breathing didn’t start again until the next scene.
I don’t want to give too much away about who’s who and what happens; just know that all is not what it at first seems to be, compounded by a cast which is downright enchanting. There’s Mark Ruffalo as fast on his feet FBI agent Dylan Rhodes in charge of investigating the runaway wizards. Add the wise and wily Morgan Freeman as magician-debunker Thaddeus Bradley left in the slammer at the end of the original, and a cold-eyed Michael Caine as Arthur Tressler who has an old ax to grind.
The script is as tight as a tick meaning, I detected no loose ends when I could follow them. Director Jon M. Chu keeps all the balls suspended in mid-air, though he muddles the physical action at times, namely the fight sequences and chase scenes; but I didn’t mind. I surrendered to the hocus pocus and sat wide-eyed as they pulled rabbit after rabbit out of their seemingly bottomless hats. I enjoyed being played and the film lets us know right from the get go that’s exactly what they’re going to do. There’s also a running subplot with all the male characters involving either sibling rivalry and/or unfinished father/son business which gives the film a little emotional kick, especially in the climactic moments. Who’d have thunk they could have pulled a terrific sequel out of the surprise hit that was the original? But believe it or not, if there’s a third– I’m ready to be fooled again.