I love magic and stage illusion, which is why I so enjoyed Now You See Me (2013). But – poof! Most of that’s gone from this shallow, often incoherent sequel. The previous thriller introduced an elusive team of rogue tricksters, known as the Four Horsemen. There’s renowned illusionist J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg). Wearing a pork-pie hat, Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) is a master hypnotist. Flipping a deck of cards, Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) specializes in street magic and sleight-of-hand. Read on…
While their female cohort, Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher), has disappeared, she’s replaced by spunky Lula (Lizzy Caplan), a fake-violence specialist who once pulled a hat out of a rabbit.
A year after their Las Vegas heist, FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) reconvenes them, and soon they’re involved in a chase through some kind of a pipeline, transporting them from Manhattan to Macau, China, and an ancient magic shop run by Li (Jay Chou) and his grandmother Bu Bu (Tsai Chin).
It seems that an unethical tech prodigy, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), is determined to acquire a card-shaped mini-circuit board that would give him access to everyone’s private information.
Suddenly, their old nemesis, malevolent corporate financier Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), reappears and he’s teamed up with Merritt McKinney’s evil twin brother (Woody Harrelson).
At the same time, Dylan Rhodes becomes enmeshed in discovering what really happened to his Houdini-like father who drowned back in 1984, because it’s obvious that skeptical Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), a professional debunker, knows more than he’s willing to reveal.
Scripted by Ed Solomon and directed by Jon M. Chu (Step Up, G.I. Joe: Retaliation), this contrived caper collapses under the weight of its convoluted misdirection. What’s missing from is any sense of urgency or suspense. There’s also no sense of playfulness or flaky fun.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, Now You See Me 2 is a frenzied 5 – displaying an initially flashy flair that quickly fizzles.