From a purely cinematic point of view, sequels are sometimes inevitable. Besides being a cash cow, they help the writers and directors tie the loose ends and connect the dots the first movie may inadvertently or intentionally have left undone. But more often than not, those in the business of cinema see sequels only as a sure-fire means to set the cash registers ringing.
There was excitement in the air when the sequel to the star-studded 2013 caper thriller Now You See Me was announced. It piqued when the makers of the film decided to rope in Daniel Radcliffe to the already impressive line of stars. The pressure then is huge to please those who flock to the cinemas expecting another edge of the seat thriller, full of mesmerising tricks.
The second installment of the film, with Jon M. Chu of the 'Step Up' fame replacing Louis Leterrier as the director, has Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco reprising the roles of the horsemen and Mark Ruffalo playing the fifth horsemen and the team lead. The fourth horse(wo)man Isla Fisher is not with them anymore and the film does not attempt to explain the reasons for her disappearance. The team has a new member; illusionist Lula May played by Lizzy Caplan. Morgan Freeman's Thaddeus Bradley is still in prison and the FBI is on trail of the fugitive horsemen.
The horsemen are on a new mission. But before they could accomplish it a few of their secrets are revealed by a mysterious individual. The five manage to flee, only to be captured by the henchmen of tech wizard Walter Mabry (Radcliffe). Mabry wants them to use their expertise to steal a data-mining device. They manage to pull off the heist, but soon realises that Mabry's intentions are malicious. The horsemen set out on a near-impossible mission to expose Mabry. What follows is the already tested routine of magic, twists, emotional barrage, (insipid) surprises and a final exposé.
The flaw of the film is that the writers Peter Chiarelli and Ed Solomon seem to think that more twists and surprises would mean more depth and a smart plot. However, the surprises tire you after a point as they spring up so very often. There is no more depth and dimension to many of the characters than explored in the first flick, except for Freeman's Bradley and Ruffalo's Rhodes.
The film sure has its moments. There is not one but two equally quirky Woody Harrelsons in the film and the exchanges between these two are indeed a treat to watch. The writers manage to up the wit quotient and Peter Deming's cinematography is commendable; especially the heist scene in the vault and the trick with the rain.
Radcliffe's fast-talking sociopathic antagonist is fairly impressive while Michael Caine, reprising the role of Arthur Tressler, is in his usual brilliant self. For Freeman, its just a walk in the park. Franco stands to gain as he gets more screen presence than in the previous flick and Eisenberg, spotting a close-cropped hair, does a neat job again as Atlas who is unhappy with Rhodes having the final say. Caplan as the new addition to the team is entertaining.
The five horsemen in Now You See Me 2 and the tricks they have up in their sleeves is a mildly entertaining watch, albeit less satisfying than its predecessor.
Film: Now You See Me 2
Director: Jon M. Chu
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine