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Review: Now You See Me 2

Now You See Me 2 is also stylized as Now You See Me 2: The Second Act.

However, when watching the film, the phrase, “second verse, same as the first, a little bit louder and a little bit worse” crept into this reviewer’s head more than a couple of times. The biggest issue with NYSM2 is the bloated running time. In no way does this film need to be two hours and fifteen minutes long. In an alternate universe there is a ninety minute cut of the Jon M. Chu film, (he takes over as director). But this version runs far longer than it needs.

One of the major elements that should have hit the cutting room floor is the idea of Woody Harrelson’s character Merritt McKinney having a twin brother, named Chase (also played by Woody Harrelson).

The double brother act grows wearisome almost immediately (although someone must have enjoyed it, as evidenced by one braying laugh coming from the press screening). But this character, (perhaps meant to parody the aging, Vegas-y type of magician), becomes grating to the point of ridiculousness.

The plot of the movie is that the four horsemen are back, (Jesse Eisenberg with super short hair, Mark Ruffalo, Dave Franco, Harrelson), and replacing Isla Fisher, who bowed out because of pregnancy, Lizzy Caplan.

To be fair, Caplan’s Lula is fresh air in a stale concept, making a decent addition to the Four Horsemen, (whoops, make that Five Horsemen).

While Fisher’s absence is explained, Melanie Laurent’s is glossed over, and a major part of the first film is replaced by Sanaa Lathan as an impressionable  officer. Mark Ruffalo’s Dylan Rhodes is somehow still a member of the FBI (shocking, really). The character of Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is still very much present, sent to prison by the Four Horsemen in the previous film, and now swearing revenge and adding in some abracadabra about an all-seeing eye in the opening sequence.

There is a risk of putting Morgan Freeman in prison in film, and that is the inevitable Shawshank Redemption comparisons, But before the audience can get busy living or get busy dying, they are given the backstory of this film, that Rhodes’s father was a Houdini-esque escape magician in the eighties and that Rhodes was a  reporter who did little to save his father’s life. The shot of Ruffalo as a child seems to be a familiar trope.

The Horsemen then appear at a show to hack a crooked cellphone giant, and things do not go as planned. Much of the remainder of the movie takes place in Macau, and features the aforementioned twin of Woody Harrelson, Daniel Radcliffe, a bumbling FBI agent, some scenes involving magic, many scenes not involving magic, a surprise reveal, a not-so-surprise reveal, and one and a half really cool sequences.

Then, long afterwards, the credits roll with a final twist that seems slightly unsatisfying as there was another, better one possible. And yes, there will likely be a third act forthcoming. Bet you didn’t see that coming.

[star v=2]