There have been any number of movies where magic serves as the backdrop to drama and suspense. The Prestige and The Illusionist are two of the more recent offerings, and 2013's Now You See Me became a box office success. Capitalizing on that, Lionsgate is bringing the sequel, Now You See Me 2, to theaters on June 10, 2016 with rumors of two more sequels to come. If audience reaction is any indication, the third and fourth installments are a sure thing.
Having been in hiding for the last year, the Four Horsemen have returned to sabotage a new, technological launch and expose the CEO as a greedy bastard who plans to sell users personal information. However, before they can really get started things go horribly wrong and they, along with their ring leader, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo; Spotlight) are exposed instead. That is when things begin to get weird and interesting.
The Horsemen find themselves in Macau under the thumb of the thought to be deceased Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe; Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2). Mabry wants the Horsemen to steal a microchip he created that can hack any computer in the world. What the Horsemen don't know is that Mabry has alternate plans for them and Rhodes. With amazing dexterity and simple card tricks, the Horsemen manage to steal the chip and take down Mabry and his father, Arthur Tressler(Michael Caine; Kingsman: The Secret Service).
Director John M. Chu (G.I.Joe) needs to learn that some times, less is more. The card trick sequence used as the Horsemen try to steal the microchip goes on entirely too long and becomes a little groan worthy. The botched motorcycle scene is a hot mess of awkward camera angles and quick cuts that don't allow the audience time to catch up on what is actually happening.
The cast, with slight exceptions, are great. Jesse Eisenberg (The Social Network) as J. Daniel Atlas is complicated, as his barely hidden anger and desire to be leader of the group bubbles just under the surface. Ruffalo is excellent as the leader of this merry band and returner Dave Franco (Superbad) fits in to the cohesive group. Woody Harrelson (Zombieland), playing dual roles, is good as Horseman Merritt McKinney, but annoying as his twin brother with a bad afro. Newcomer to the group, Lizzy Caplan (Masters of Sex) fills the spot vacated by Isla Fischer, but isn't as sophisticated and engaging as Fischer was. It is a nice change to see Radcliffe play a bad guy as opposed to the young wizard.
The plot is intriguing, but bogged down with details that distract from the magic. While leaving the theater with some questions is a good thing with a movie like this one, being perplexed by the relationships and the plot points is disappointing. There were several pieces I wish had been fleshed out in more detail and other things I think could have been left out.
From a purely entertainment stand point, Now You See Me 2 is an interesting two hours and for budding magicians it's probably a must see. However, as with many sequels, it doesn't equal the original.