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Now You See Me 2 – film review

June 6, 2016

NOW YOU SEE ME 2

Magician Impossible

Reviewed on Wednesday 1st June 2016

now you see me 2

Directed by Jon M. Chu. Screenplay by Ed Solomon. Starring: Lizzy Caplan, Daniel Radcliffe, Dave Franco, Mark Ruffalo, Jesse Eisenberg, Morgan Freeman, Woody Harrelson and Michael Caine. Running time: 115 mins.

It’s been eighteen months since a collective of stage magicians known as The     Four Horsemen pulled off one of the biggest heists in history and subsequently disappeared. Slighted billionaire Arthur Tressler has vowed revenge, setting a trap     to take down the Horsemen once and for all.

Upon its release in 2013, the original Now You See Me was uniformly scoffed at by the critical community, while auds around the world flocked to it in droves; seemingly alerted to its sense of fun via word of mouth; essentially making it the surprise crowd-pleaser of the summer that year.

While the original was more of a heist caper, this new installment could easily be viewed as an espionage thriller along the lines of Mission: Impossible (while still maintaining the playful tone of the original). And the balletic action sensibility of helmer Jon M. Chu (G.I. Joe: Retaliation) – here taking up where the original’s helmer Louis Leterrier left off – is again very much in evidence. The most impressive scene demonstrating this being the centerpiece Mission: Impossible style computer vault heist sequence; where the action truly ebbs and flows like a dance routine of sorts. The beautifully-staged choreography involving the covert exchange of a palying card between the Horsemen during this scene (while security staff are none the wiser) is breath-taking to behold. Playing upon the performance art of cardistry (or card flourishing), this scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Whereas the original NYSM was a straighforward sticking-it-to-the-one-percenters justice fantasy, this second installment has more of an apparent sociopoltical commentative bent; being something of a commentary on the burgeoning global surveillance state – or at least attempting to be. However, much like other big Hollywood blockbusters purporting to expose the deepstate controllers (Captain America: Winter Soldier being a prime example) – nothing much of any importance is ever really done with these concepts – other than to trivialize them as concerns of no consequence. Interestingly, the big reveal at the conclusion of the original NYSM; being that a secret society of magicians known as The Eye dabble in real magic appears to have been oddly discarded as a plot point in this follow-up. In a yen-chasing move which is becoming more and more obvious these days, much of the second act in NYSM2 takes place in the Far East (in this case the mainland Chinese province of Macau). While the low-contrast cinematography of Peter Demming (Lost Highway, Mulholland Drive) does well in contributing to the otherworldliness of these locales, ultimately, there is little narrative reason to justify the setting; other than providing a mechanism for the film to be of some interest to the lucrative (and gigantic) Chinese cinema-going market.

As the lone female of the group, comedic actress Lizzy Caplan more than makes up for Isla Fisher’s conspicuous absence. Her character, Lula, is kooky, awkwardly sassy and virtually steals every scene and I look forward to further insights into her character in potential future installments. Not far behind in the scene-stealing stakes is Woody Harrelson with his dual role as his returning character’s cosmetically (and comically) enhanced twin brother. While Mark Ruffalo, whose character provided many humorous moments in the orginal film, is less amusing here; his backstory providing the dramatic trajectory of the overarching plot of this installment.

A major issue people seem to have had with the original was in the way the back-stage mechanics of how the various stage illusions utilized in the heists were achieved were never revealed to the viewer; creating an apparent gap in credibility in some people’s minds. With the sequel this issue has been satisfactorily addressed; with the nuts and bolts explanations behind the illusions being just as engaging as     the illusions themselves.

If you enjoyed the original NYSM then you will most likely enjoy this one too. And likewise the opposite also applies: if you couldn’t care less about Now You See Me, then its probably best you stay away. Me – I’m happy to say I’m an unabashed fan.

3.5 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4 – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed at the Event Cinemas Marion, Adelaide, June 1st 2016.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos     and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies. Greg can also be heard on the Blu-ray commentary track for the 1980 sci-fi thriller Saturn 3, out now from Scream Factory.

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