Sorry for the delay of these upcoming reviews. Been hit by some financial troubles and been behind on current movies. But that’s about to change in the very near future and I should be back on track with updated reviews. Just a brief adjustment period is all I need. But no one cares about that, let’s get to the real reason we read my stuff!
Believe it or not, by the time this movie was announced, I hadn’t yet seen the first NOW YOU SEE ME. It was something of regret of mine as I am a huge fan of magic in general and magic-themed movies (THE PRESTIGE and THE ILLUSIONIST). Plus, huge fan of the cast. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine, Isla Fisher… jeez, it probably would have been easier to say who wasn’t in the movie. But, for whatever reason, I didn’t see it right then.
But, as any smart person would say, I wasn’t about to see a sequel without seeing the original. So here’s my quick review of NOW YOU SEE ME. It was fantastic. It was so much fun, so visually incredible and mesmerizing that it made me wish I was in Vegas to see a real mind-blowing magic show. Performances all around were great with some solid twists and turns, as any magic-themed movie worth its balls would have. I was officially geared up and excited for the sequel.
Quickly I noticed that Fisher wasn’t in the movie, replaced by Lizzy Caplan (a more talented actress, if you ask me), and further addition of Daniel Radcliff, this was shaping up to be a pretty interesting flick and looked just as visually exciting as the last. With high hopes, I got my ticket and sat on down. Did it blow me away, or did this end up being amateur at best? This is my honest opinion of NOW YOU SEE ME 2.
One year after The Four Horsemen robbed Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine) of his money and giving to the many people who were affected by his rotten business decisions, the Horsemen are in hiding, awaiting orders from their new organization, The Eye. J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg) is revealed to be impatient with The Eye’s decisions and Dylan Rhodes’ (Mark Ruffalo) leadership and wants to be in charge. But before long, Rhodes brings the Horsemen together for a show, along with new recruit Lula (Lizzy Caplan), to bring down corrupt businessman, Owen Case (Ben Lamb). However, their show is hijacked by an unknown assailant that exposes them to the FBI, as well as Rhodes being the fifth Horsemen. Escaping the FBI’s clutches, they escape via a tube on a rooftop, they somehow end up in Macau, China. They’re met with a middle man, Merritt McKinney’s (Woody Harrelson) twin brother Chase (Woody Harrelson) that robbed him of everything he had a long time ago, who takes the Horsemen to his employer. A young but ingenious tech expert thought to be dead named Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), whom knows the Horsemen stole money from him. Willing to wipe their slate clean, he tells them to steal a piece of tech from his former business partner, Owen Case. Atlas takes charge and agrees to the heist, even though no one else really wants to do it. Meanwhile, Rhodes is on the lamb and desperately wants to know who is behind the Horsemen’s exposure. In order to do this, he has to break out Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) from prison, whom Rhodes blames for his escape-artist father’s death. So begins a game of reuniting the Horsemen, magic-themed espionage, and taking down the man who is behind the Horsemen’s current turmoils.
Not nearly as good as the first one, but I’m going to start with the stuff I really liked.
First and foremost, the cast is phenomenal as always, but let’s address probably my favorite actor/character in the film. Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in a round of applause for miss Caplan. Big, big fan of hers. Always knew she could act the crap out of anything she’s given (even if the material is stale, she makes it good) and finally, she’s given something great to work with. I absolutely loved Lula. And before anyone tries to tap into the immature man in me saying that I only like her because Caplan is gorgeous… yes, she is… but no, in a male-dominated core cast of actors who are known best for their comedy, it’s Lula that feels like the greatest comedy relief in the movie. How often does that happen?? Usually in a male-dominated case, the funny women are all raunchy and perverted, whereas the men are given the best and most memorable lines. Here, while everyone has a funny line or two, Lula is the heavy-hitter in terms of comedy. Caplan brings an unmatched energy to the role that no one else measures up to. I think my favorite moment with her is a self-aware joke. The Horsemen are laying down a plan to steal the tech that Walter wants them to steal and a part of that plan is stealing the identity of a client who is frequently accompanied by a woman who is, shall we say… very clearly expensive arm-candy. Lula chimes in with the a sarcastically drenched, “Gee, I wonder who’s going to be the bimbo!” Never mind the fact that I’m just chuckling my head off at her not-so-subtle bluntness, but there’s a hilarious follow-up to this moment. I ain’t giving that away, kids. Caplan, thank you for having the most stand-out performance in the movie. Many heartz for you. See? I spelled it with a “Z.” That’s how you know how cereal I am.
Also, I kind of liked how there’s a lot more interaction between the Horsemen themselves and how they really work off of each other. You get to see Jack (Dave Franco) and McKinney try to teach each other their respective crafts, like McKinney trying to throw cards, only be hilariously terrible at it, as well as Jack trying to learn how to hypnotize, only to get embarrassed by his target for failing. You get to also see them kind of challenge each other. Like when Lula breaks into Atlas’ apartment and he’s trying to tie her up to a chair while he tries to figure out how she found him and she keeps escaping from his knots.
And of course, when the magic kicks into high gear, it’s a crap-load of fun. Even from the basic and humble “follow the respective card” trick to the straight-up marvel and down-right impressive stopping of rain where it falls and making it dance in the air, it gets me grinning from ear to ear. God, I never think about magic in my average day to day life, but the moment you put a talented magician in front of me, I’m a kid again.
But the good times do come to a halt in a few areas.
While I do love the magic that’s presented in the movie, there is an insultingly small amount of it in the movie. In the previous movie, there were quite a few major scenes featuring magic tricks, making the audience in the movie as well as in the chairs in the auditorium. Special effects or not, the shows are spectacular. In this movie, they have one… and even that is debatable. The show that Walter hijacks doesn’t kick get a chance to get underway. Sure, toward the climax of the movie, there are a bunch of little acts by individual Horsemen, and again, while enjoyable by themselves, you can’t call them “the Four Horsemen” if it’s just one Horseman performing separate from the group. They shine when they perform together.
And the climax being debatable: yeah, it’s technically being performed by the Horsemen and they have a crowd of people watching it unfold. Thing is, for me anyway, it’s not a real show. I know the point of it is that it’s not meant to be known, otherwise the gripping reveal would lose its luster, but the first film didn’t shy away from having multiple performances from the Horsemen. I can’t deny that the ending is pretty damn well executed and I genuinely didn’t see it coming, but let’s face it, that’s the only show you see in the movie.
I have no issues with Radcliffe as an actor. Even from his humble beginnings on HARRY POTTER, he was always a solid performer. But I can’t help but feel like his performance here is basically Eisenberg’s. I mean, his mannerisms aren’t much different. He’s fast talking, always ready to answer a question with another question before snarkily answering it. It’s so repetitive and distracting. More annoying than threatening. He’s done better work than this, but I doubt this will hurt his career much.
Speaking of awkward performances, I do confess to not liking Harrelson. Now before you lean back in frustration at me, some clarification: Harrelson as the twin brother. Oh yeah, as Merritt, he’s absolutely fine. But as Chase? Dear god was that beyond obnoxious. He plays the part like a psychotic cartoon character who surgically cemented his face into a smile that would frustrate Batman’s Joker into a homicidal frenzy. Harrelson, I love you man, but… no more Chase. Write this character out of the third film and never reference him again. Just a thousand no’s.
The movie as a whole does hold up, despite the weird setbacks in annoying characters and lack of showcasing magic acts. I know I gushed like a crazy person when talking about Caplan’s performance, but that shouldn’t imply that the rest of the cast was flat-lined. Everyone, with the exception of Radcliffe and Harrelson as Chase, was amazing. Had it not been for such a great cast, this movie would have been a complete blunder. But I can’t look past the stumbles here. I say, “viewer beware.” The first movie is superior, but if you’re a fan of the cast like I am, you’ll be fine for the most part. If you didn’t like the first movie, I doubt this one will be worth your time. I absolutely didn’t hate it, but nor do I love it as much as the previous installment.
My honest rating: 3/5