Magazine article Variety

Now You See Me 2

Magazine article Variety

Now You See Me 2

Article excerpt

FILM REVIEW

Now You See Me 2

Director: Jon M. Chu

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Lizzy Caplan

"Now You See Me 2" is the kind of sequel that has all but gone out of fashion: a follow-up to a blockbuster that was so flaky and off-center that even those who made the original probably never expected it to spawn a second chapter. The new film is an even wilder lark - a madly spinning top of a movie, powered by an eagerness to please that somehow comes off as more innocent than calculated. The film knows that it's playing you, and in almost every scene invites you to embrace the fact that you're being played. It feels downright retro, and maybe even a little exotic (in a good way) to encounter a sequel that isn't all about setting up a five-year plan of franchise plot points. "Now You See Me 2" is more like a giddy piece of cheese from the '80s, a chance to spend two more hours with characters you like. The revisit is well-earned, and fans of the original, as well as new converts, are likely to turn out in droves.

Three years ago, the first "Now You See Me" was an irresistible, fluffier-thanair concoction - a grand-illusion thriller that kept yanking the rug out from under you, and each time that happened it gave you a rush. With its nattering band of rogue-magician heroes, and a plot so elaborate it was like a Rubik's Cube nestled in a set of Russian dolls, the movie was exuberantly clever and borderline preposterous. The way the intricacy kept shading off into absurdity was part of its diabolical, corny charm.

In "Now You See Me 2," the tricksters known as the Four Horsemen are back, toying with our heads in even more delirious, ridiculous ways. They're now underground legends, and the bravura of each character has gotten kicked up a notch, according to the rock-star logic of sequels. When Woody Harrelson's hypnotist in a pork-pie hat reduces his targets to a putty-like trance, he now does it with even more smirky panache. Dave Franco's sleight-of-hand artist flips a deck of cards around like the Paganini of street showmanship, and Jesse Eisenberg, as the group leader, exudes a newly understated confidence that looks great on him. Ingratiatingly antic newcomer Lizzy Caplan as Lula gets right onto the film's wavelength of gaga showmanship in a scene where, having snuck into Daniel's apartment, she fakes her own death by guillotine and just keeps on talking. That lets you know that she's in the right place. The Horseman are a team, but they interact in a dizzy flurry of one-upmanship.

Early on, they're doing a stage show that involves hypnotizing the CEO of a tech company and getting him to reveal the fascist truth about himself, but just when it looks like the scheme is working, the tables turn. The Horsemen are forced to flee, leaping from a rooftop down into a giant tube, where they slide for about 30 seconds until they pop out the other side - in China. It says something about the way the film manipulates the power of suggestion that we actually think, "Could that really have happened?" At the same time, we're avid to know how it did happen, and the movie keeps our curiosity suspended, juggling its mysteries like balls in the air.

Our heroes, it turns out, have landed in Macau, where they've been recruited by Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), a smug mastermind who's been hiding off the grid. …

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