Now You See Me turned out to be a bit of a sleeper hit at the box office when it first appeared in 2013, and I’ve been anticipating a sequel ever since. The creatively titled NOW YOU SEE ME 2 is more of the same from practical magicians The Horsemen, though this time around there’s a cast change-up and a decidedly better ending.
In this second big screen outing, the Horsemen magically reappear and find themselves embroiled in a seemingly impossible heist, one that’s orchestrated by a guy that looks very much like Harry Potter with a beard (spoiler alert: it is in fact Daniel Radcliffe behind all the facial hair). This heist leads them to China and back in search of a powerful chip that can control the planet’s computers, and obviously only the infamous Horseman can get the job done. Or can they?
NOW YOU SEE ME 2 is an enjoyable sequel that easily lives up to the first instalment. The cast always seem to be having huge amounts of fun, and it shows in their work — I even liked Jesse Eisenberg, and usually he’s at the top of my most disliked actor list. He awkwardly fits the character of Atlas so well, and I’m pretty sure that’s why I could watch him for two hours. The whole cast is good, particularly Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes) and Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), and the addition of Lizzie Caplan as Lula is a very welcome one indeed. She replaces Isla Fisher as the only female member of the Horseman, and Fisher’s absence is laughingly explained away with one flippant sentence that can be missed if you sneeze. Caplan is way better, in my opinion, and her character is much more likeable. Well done, casting agents!
As always, the effects in these films are mind-bending, employing a wealth of card tricks and cool visual manipulations to show just how talented the Horsemen really are. At the end of the day, they’re nothing more than chancers, confident magicians with a penchant for illusion, and the way the effects team show this is the most stunning part of the film. NOW YOU SEE ME 2 has a great scene involving one card being passed from person to person, and I was glued to the screen for its entirety. We also get tricks with birds, disappearing people, a sliver of hypnotism, and slow motion rain that looks like something from a Wachowski film. More scenes along these lines wouldn’t have gone amiss, but no doubt the budget only allowed for so many magical playing cards to take up precious screen time.
Although NOW YOU SEE ME 2 is a stellar second film, it does have its flaws. It ends up feeling more unbelievable than the first film (you’ll see what I mean when the trip to China is all explained), and the timeline seems slightly out of whack. The final showdown takes place on New Year’s Eve, but nowhere previously is Christmas seen or mentioned, and it’s like they’ve all embarked on a handy spot of time-travelling. Also Woody Harrelson’s dual role is just ludicrous, and the weakest part of the script by a mile. Still, none of these minor quibbles succeed in detracting from an otherwise fun film, and its imperfections actually help its strengths stand out.
NOW YOU SEE ME 2 is fast-paced, cleverly written, and essential viewing for anyone who liked Now You See Me. The grand finale builds to one hell of a visual spectacle, and, should this one do well, the ending leaves it wide open for a third Horsemen crime caper. If a third film should materialise, count me in — I’m always up for more cinematic trickery!