Now You See Me 2
Director - Jon M Chu
Cast - Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Radcliffe, Mark Ruffalo, Morgan Freeman, Michael Caine
Rating - 2/5
China is many things. It holds different meaning for different people. For some, it is the source of their favourite cuisine. For others, it may be the country of origin of everything they own, from their shiny iPhone to their least attractive cooking utensil. It is a nation juggling questionable labour laws, environmental collapse, economic boom, import sanctions, an overbearing government and being on the cusp of technological greatness. But most pertinently, it also happens to be the only conceivable reason Now You See Me 2 exists.
It has become depressingly common to see movies like Now You See Me 2 – sequels to inventive films, made exclusively for one reason: To capitalise on the gargantuan Chinese market. Such films are easily identified. They usually have a shamelessly contrived segment set in China (check), preferably with the added attraction of a cameo by a young Chinese model/heartthrob (check and check). And since there is no getting around this sad state of affairs, I’m left with no option but to review this film while ignoring the capitalistic mentality with which it was made.
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All said and done, I am a fan of the original Now You See Me. It was a breathlessly exciting heist movie with flashy visuals and a great cast. And on paper, director Jon M Chu has followed the recipe properly.
He has reassembled the Four Horsemen, who’ve been on the run since the last movie ended. His two new additions to the already excellent cast are without doubt the best thing about the film. Both Lizzy Caplan and Daniel Radcliffe bring with them a genuine energy that is visibly missing from most, if not all the returning actors.
And who could blame them? This film is a bloated mess. It runs, at a fair estimate, almost 30 minutes too long. It is sawed in half by a screenplay of astounding stupidity, the kind in which several characters exist only to spout expositional dialogue. It makes even Jesse Eisenberg, an actor who is incapable of delivering a bad performance unless he’s in a movie called Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, boring.
A highlight of the first movie was its excitingly well-done heist sequences. Similar scenes this time around are so shoddily-written, even the most novice audience members will likely find dozens of movie-breaking plot holes. No joke: The single most important heist of the movie hinges exclusively on the hope that the bad guys don’t doubt Woody Harrelson when he coughs and says he’s allergic to ‘hermetic seals.’
The film makes a genuine attempt at fleshing out its world, which in all honesty is probably done just to have material for another sequel - but at least it tried. As for its single-minded dedication to providing at least one plot twist every two minutes, I have no explanation. Its efforts to stay a step ahead of the audience come across as an insult instead. By not committing to logical arcs, the characters are all rendered meaningless. When any character in the film can turn on a dime without any prior indication, it robs them of any chance they had at being relatable.
Now You See Me 2 is, in many ways, exactly the sort of sequel everyone dreads: Needless, uninspired and empty. Even with expectations in check, it somehow manages to disappoint. Like its flamboyant heroes, it relies on the notion that you are too dumb to notice illusion from reality.
I’ve now sat through all but one of Jon M Chu’s 7 films. His best remains his first Justin Beiber documentary (he’s made two). Need I say more?