The 2013 film Now You See Me, about a group of magicians that grandiosely calls themselves the Four Horsemen, was quite enjoyable. The Robin Hood-like bunch design elaborate tricks to steal from the rich and redistribute the haul to audiences. At the end of that film, it was difficult to picture the possibility (or need for) a sequel.
Now You See Me 2, in the hands of a new director, picks up where part one left off. The horsemen have gone underground, hiding after their last extravaganza. Their collaborator, Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), is using his day job as a Federal Bureau of Investigation agent to deflect attention from his accomplices. Rhodes is agent by day and leader and designer of illusions the rest of the time. Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) is festering in jail after being framed by the magicians in part one. In a voiceover, he menacingly declares his belief in an eye for an eye.
Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) are in training for a new performance. They get a new partner – the fast-talking Lula (Lizzy Caplan). The team comes out of hiding to expose a digital giant but the trick goes wrong and the Horsemen suddenly find themselves in Macau, where they encounter Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe). Walter is a mash-up of all sorts of British villains from Austin Powers’s Scott Evil to Draco Malfoy from the Potter series. Walter wants the horsemen to steal an all-powerful computer chip so that he can control everything from off the grid.
The plot meanders towards several subplots, including Dylan’s redemption and healing, a blossoming love story, and two Woody Harrelsons (Merritt acquires a twin brother who looks like he has been styled by the Hunger Games wardrobe department.) Fortunately there’s at least one well-choreographed scene in the digital vault, where the Horsemen are trying to steal a computer chip. The fight scene on the streets on Macau is unreal, and is what you might imagine a fight between American magicians and Chinese henchmen might look like if it took place in Diagon Alley.
Director Jon M Chu tries hard to make the sequel lively and more amusing, but the story is more far-fetched and bloated and too dependent on special effects. Casting the former Harry Potter as a bad guy incapable of any magic is admittedly funny. Now You See Me 2 gives the illusion of being a clever deception. While it might be more fun and flamboyant, the sequel is not magical enough.