Now You See Me 2

 

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Hey presto! A film about magic without an ounce of magic.

 
Now You See Me 2

The weather man: Jesse Eisenberg

 

As the stunts of Criss Angel, David Blaine and Dynamo have become increasingly more elaborate, so the audience for magic has grown exponentially. But sometimes it’s the simplest trick that truly enthrals: like Derren Brown driving a nine-inch nail up his nose – live, on stage. Here, the quartet of street magicians who make up the so-called ‘Four Horseman’ become embroiled in such a convoluted plot that it’s hard to keep up, let alone care. Besides, they lack the real magic to which the cinema subscribes: personality. Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco are just geeks eager to please, although new recruit Lizzy Caplan does add some spark.

 

The plot – I think that’s the word – involves the foursome being magically transported down a chute from New York to Macau. As phrases like “blind spots” and “controlling perception” are added to the brew to provide a bit of inside jargon, the audience is taken on a ride that defies logic. And the enigmatic words of master wizard Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) explaining that “the only way out is ‘through’” don’t help a jot. With the FBI on their trail, the Horsemen find themselves the prey of a megalomaniac tycoon who wants to exploit their skills to steal a computer chip that will enable him to penetrate every hard drive on the planet. Now, Daniel Radcliffe is a highly engaging individual but it was a mistake to cast him as a villain. He just isn’t Christoph Waltz. You actually feel sorry for him. And when it turns out that he is the son of Michael Caine, you wonder how it is genetically possible (besides, Radcliffe is nine inches shorter). And then the clichés start rolling in.

 

As Radcliffe and Caine watch a victim drown in a reinforced iron box, they sip tea as all Englishmen must on the Pearl River Delta. And when the action switches to London, it gets worse: the entire sequence is filmed during a torrential downpour. But fear not – one of the tricks of Danny Atlas (Eisenberg) is to reverse the weather. But when his secret is revealed, one wonders how every Londoner happened to be armed with an umbrella. Silly is not the word.

 

The director is Jon M. Chu, whose track record includes G.I. Joe: Retaliation and the last four Step Up instalments – not a good sign. Besides trotting out a series of ineffectual action scenes – and an over-extended sequence involving a hyperactive playing card – he deadens the film with wall-to-wall music that saps the action dry. Still, there was one feat that really did impress: Eisenberg disappearing in a puddle in front of a horde of onlookers. Only in the cinema… Incidentally, the film’s co-producer is David Copperfield, master of the overblown spectacle.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Mark Ruffalo, Woody Harrelson, Dave Franco, Daniel Radcliffe, Lizzy Caplan, Jay Chou, Sanaa Lathan, Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Ben Lamb, David Warshofsky, Henry Lloyd-Hughes, Tsai Chin.

 

Dir Jon M. Chu, Pro Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Bobby Cohen, Co-Pro David Copperfield, Screenplay Ed Soloman, Ph Peter Deming, Pro Des Sharon Seymour, Ed Stan Salfas, Music Brian Tyler, Costumes Anna B. Sheppard.

 

K/O Paper Products/TIK Films-Entertainment One.

129 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 4 July 2016. Cert. 12A.