Certificate 12A, 129 minutes
Director: Jon M. Chu
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson
Now You See Me 2 is the sequel to Now You See Me. It opens in New Jersey in 1984 where a young Dylan (William Henderson) racing through the crowd to see his father, magician Lionel Strike (Richard Laing). Strike, having been goaded into it by magical debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), is performing a potentially dangerous escape from a lock safe that is being dropped into the river with him inside it. Thaddeus himself is on the scene filming a programme about the attempt, suggesting that Strike has overreached himself with the trick. Of course, this is the event that led to the death of Dylan's father and the beginning of his 30 year revenge plot against Thaddeus and Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine), the owner of the insurance company that refused to pay out on Lionel Shrike's apparent death, and ended up with Thaddeus and Tressler being robbed of millions, losing his influence and being imprisoned through the agency of the Four Horsemen.
There's then a narration from Thaddeus from his prison cell, recapping the events of the first film, how he was framed, and how the Horsemen, when they inevitably return to the spotlight, are going to get exactly what they deserve. It appears that Thaddeus bears a bit of a grudge regarding his imprisonment.
At the FBI in New York, Dylan himself is still ostensibly pursuing the Four Horsemen, but really he isn't. Agents Cowan (David Warshofsky) is more than a little suspicious of him - he is, after all, insisting that the Horsemen are communicating using pigeons - but new boss Deputy Director Natalie Austin (Sanaa Lathan) seems more willing to let him run with things. For the moment at least.
Dylan finally communicates with the others, telling them that The Eye has a new task for them. Tech mogul Owen Case (Ben Lamb), owner of the technology company Octa, is their latest target. Octa's new mobile phone is going to steal its users data, and Case is then going to sell that data for more money. The Horsemen are going to make their return at the launch of the new phone, and reveal Case's actual intention. There is a new Horseman, Lula May (Lizzy Caplan, The Interview) as Henley has left (Isla Fisher, who played Henley in the first film, was unable to reprise her role due to pregnancy), and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) is unable to appear on stage himself as he is supposed to be dead. Atlas, having already met Lula, doesn't have a high opinion of her skills as a magician. Although he truthfully doesn't really have a high opinion of the skills of anyone who isn't him.
So, the sting is set up, with Atlas, Merrit McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Lula being up on stage, and Jack and Dylan working behind the scenes. Everything is going well, when the performance is hijacked by an unknown party. Jack is revealed to be still alive and Dylan to be working with the Four Horsemen. The four, excluding Dylan, flee using their prepared exit; a chute leading down from the roof. There are flashing lights inside the chute, and the four arrive, not in a van in New York, but in the kitchen of a restaurant in Macau, China.
They have been kidnapped by Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe, Horns, The Woman in Black, Victor Frankenstein), the former partner of Owen Case, and a tech mogul in his own right. However, just like Jack, he is supposed to be dead. Also like Jack, he obviously isn't. Although he's living far better and still controls a lot of companies, indirectly at least. Mabry wants the four to steal a new chip that his partner has created that has the ability to crack any computer system in the world. If they do, he'll give them new lives. If they don't, he'll not be happy. Atlas, on behalf of the rest of the group, decides to agree.
This is really a story in two main parts. The first part is the reappearance of the Four Horsemen and their theft of the chip, which involves a long, rather complicated scene inside the facility where they get the chip from one person to the next, and hide it on themselves - as well as on others - so that they can steal it without suspicion.
The second part is when the Horsemen go after those who duped them the first time around. Dylan is still back in the U.S. and meets with Thaddeus in prison, who says that he didn't have anything to do with what happened, but that he can help Dylan find the Horsemen and discover what happened. There are definite wheels within wheels, and as Thaddeus says, "There's always more than what's on the surface." New threads are revealed, although there is a one twist, revealed fairly close to the end, that for some reason, by the time the twist actually shows isn't actually a surprise. Poor plotting perhaps, or maybe it was a bit too obvious. All this takes place against a background of magic tricks and illusions.
There is a type of scene which should be familiar to watchers of the series Hustle, the U.S. knockoff Leverage, or even some of the old Mission: Impossible episodes, where what appeared to happen is replayed and what actually happened is explained. The con, in some series, the magic trick in this film. In fact, the film has quite a few similarities to those mentioned programmes, but what is going on here isn't a con, or scientific trickery, but stage magic. The end result is largely the same, though. There are some moments of humour, one such being where Daniel Radcliffe's character (he does not appear to suit a beard) says that he, too, was interested in magic in his younger years, but grew out of it as he got older. Radcliffe, of course, in his younger years played the magician Harry Potter.
Some parts of the plot don't make a lot of sense, and some of the reveals are a little too obvious, but the film is decently put together and the tricks - even though they are on the big screen, and therefore easier to fake - are engaging enough. Possibly a bit more enjoyable than the first film, and doing well enough to result in a third, Now You See Me 2 is still a decent twist on fare such as Hustle and Leverage, with the cons being done by illusions.