Main cast: Jesse Eisenberg (J Daniel “Danny” Atlas), Mark Ruffalo (Dylan Rhodes), Woody Harrelson (Merritt McKinney/Chase McKinney), Lizzy Caplan (Lula May), Dave Franco (Jack Wilder), Daniel Radcliffe (Walter Mabry), Sanaa Lathan (Agent Natalie Austin), Tsai Chin (Bu Bu), Jay Chou (Li), Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley), and Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler)
Director: Jon M Chu
If you are still suffering from having watched Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, do be careful: in this movie, Jesse Eisenberg is just doing a slightly less manic version of his low-rent third-rate Joker-wannabe shtick in that movie. Even the hand gestures and the mannerism are the same. Whether this is because he is still in Lex Luthor mode or he is just a one-note actor who can only play that one crappy role over and over, I’d leave others to discuss, because I don’t like wasting words on the failed result of the cloning of Andy Samberg more than necessary.
In Now You See Me 2, the whole gang is back. Well, except for Isla Fisher, who was pregnant when they wanted to film, so they had Henley Reeves upping and quitting the Horsemen before this movie begins. Mélanie Laurent is not back too – maybe she has better things to do. Well, with two people out, the movie then adds in another four new people, resulting in a bloated cast with several of the new additions completely wasted. Sanaa Lathan is basically here to fill up space, while the much-touted “OMG Jay Chou is in this movie!” hype deflates like a punctured balloon when one realizes that he’s in the movie for about ten minutes and three lines total. Sorry, girls.
It has been a year since Now You See Me ended. Merritt has taken Jack as his student, while Henley dumped Danny and the Horsemen to… do something, I guess. Danny chaffs at the fact that they all have to lay low, and he wants to speak to the Eye directly, behind Dylan Rhodes’s back, because he’s so alpha male like that.
Meanwhile, Dylan recruits a new female Horseman, Mary Sue, I mean, Lula May. Something tells me they just quickly rewrote Henley’s lines a bit to fit the new girl, because, my goodness, it isn’t long before Lula Sue starts acting like she’s been in the team since forever, the bad guy from the previous movie Arthur doesn’t even blink when he sees the new girl in Henley’s place and instead acts like she too has wronged him in the past, and she even gets to deliver lines like what it means to be a Horseman and other nonsense. She’s in the Horsemen for a few days and she’s acting like she knows everything. and nobody calls her on her crap. Yes, she’s a badly reskinned Henley, only with some last-minute aesthetic change to make this version more annoying than ever with her “Hyper! Dramatic! Manic! Pixie! Girl! HEE-HEE-HEE! I’M SO FUNNY AND AWESOME, HEE-HEE-HEE SNORT!” style, Fortunately they have her soon forcing her amorous attention on Jack rather than Danny, or else it’d be a grotesque pairing of two drama queens with annoying over the top tics.
The Horsemen try to sabotage a launch party to expose a software guru of breaching privacy laws, only to have the tables turned on them when someone else hijacked the party and played a video revealing Dylan to be the FBI mole and that Jack Wilder still lives. Dylan has to flee his colleagues, now led by newly transferred Natalie Austin, and he is separated from the Horsemen when the four are kidnapped and transported to Macau. In Macau, Discount Harry Potter insists that they help him steal a computer board thingy that can break into any computer in the world, or he’d have them killed. Harry is in cahoot with his father, Arthur Tressler, whom the Horsemen publicly humiliated and robbed in the previous movie. Meanwhile, a desperate Dylan decides to accept Thaddeus Bradley’s help to locate the Horsemen, although Thaddeus is going to exact payment… or perhaps revenge, for what Dylan did to him in the previous movie. Oh, and remember Merritt’s brother who ran off with his money? Chase is here, and what a surprise, he is in cahoot with Harry.
Of course, there are twists and turns, in an even more ridiculous manner than those in the previous movie. Normally, this won’t be so bad – the previous movie certainly is enjoyable enough for me – but here, the movie is paced in a more draggy manner. As a result, without the distraction offered by a fast-paced and slick script, I find myself mulling over the illogical stuff here. Just how rich and well-connected is the Eye if these people can set up convoluted props and stuff in such a short time? If the Eye is so powerful, how come they can be caught unaware when Harry crashes their party? And is Daniel Radcliffe really that limited an actor that all he can do is to play himself over and over? One can argue that Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are phoning in too, but they make their roles fun. Mr Radcliffe just makes his role look… awkward, like watching a small boy putting on some pasted-on facial hair and trying to act all grown-up. As for Woody Harrelson’s dual roles – that’s such a pointless gimmick, which never manages to be as funny as the movie people wish it to be.
The first movie is better, due to the pacing and the novelty factor. Here, Now You See Me 2 is more slowly paced, and it is also filled with more derivative, used-many-times-before stuff, so watching it is like seeing some magician doing tricks that have been done many times before – the whole act feels rather stale and boring. The best parts are crammed into the last half hour or so, and even then, the eye-rolling final few moments kind of ruin the mood. I’d rather not have seen this one and keep my good feelings about the first movie intact.