Eighteen months after the events of Now You See Me, The Horsemen are disbanded and in hiding, and Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) is still sending the FBI on a wild goose chase looking for the illusionist thieves. Announcing their comeback with an act of corporate sabotage, The Horsemen – with new member Lula (Lizzy Caplan) – find themselves kidnapped and taken to Macau, where they are forced to steal for reclusive tech prodigy Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). Of course, The Horsemen are not going to take this lying down, and soon come up with a plan of their own.
Three years after Now You See Me, The Horsemen are back, but this time without Isla Fisher and with the addition of Lizzy Caplan as the fast talking Lula May. The first film struggled with being predictable at times, albeit charming in its own way, but Now You See me 2 faces a whole new set of issues, and not just the ones faced by the characters.
Many of the original cast have returned for this sequel; Jesse Eisenberg, Dave Franco, Woody Harrelson, Morgan Freeman, Mark Ruffalo and Michael Caine are all back for more, and they are joined by Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe. The returning cast do well enough with their roles, although there were times the original struggled to make these characters feel rounded and relatable, and this time there seems to be even less focus given to making the characters anything more than magicians. Even giving Woody Harrelson a family connection in the film does not tell us a whole lot about the character, other than the fact that he has family. Daniel Radcliffe does OK with his arrogant and obnoxious character, but again, is never given a chance to make him more than that and although Lizzy Caplan is one of the most fun characters in the film, the most we learn about her is that she took a hat out of a rabbit early on in her career.
Screenwriter Ed Solomon obviously tries to one up the exciting feel of Now You See Me with this new film, but in trying to make The Horsemen operate against their will – and with no clue as to who the mysterious group The Eye actually is – Now You See Me 2 feel very self satisfied with itself and, although some of the sequences are fun, without ever learning much about the characters, it becomes hard to root for them. The dialogue is fine and some of the magic sequences are well timed, but Now You See Me 2 is far too long, convoluted and smug to be truly accessible.
Director Jon M. Chu, who most recently brought us the big screen version of Jem and the Holograms, takes over directing duties from Louis Letterier and does fine with the action based sequences of the film – with the magic sequences in particular being well choreographed – but the emotional component of the film that makes us root for the characters is missing, and this is a problem. As well as this, the film struggles with pacing and audience knowledge that most of the film is probably a trick, so the elements of surprise and fun are sorely lacking in this sequel.
In all, the cast do their best with what they are given in Now You See Me 2 but the film is badly paced and a little too smug to be ultimately satisfying. Lizzy Caplan and Mark Ruffalo do well, as always, but the convoluted plot and lack of emotional engagement with the characters means that Now You See Me 2 is less Harry Houdini and more G.O.B Bluth.