Now You See Me 2 – Review (** 1/2)

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If you enjoyed the first Now You See Me, there’s a fair chance you’ll dig this sequel, which touts almost every single strength and weakness of the original. For better and worse, it’s one of the most consistent movie sequels in recent memory.

A year after the events of the previous film, three members of the Four Horsemen, J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), are in hiding. Isla Fisher’s former member, Henley Reeves, has quit the outfit and is summarily replaced by illusionist Lula May (Lizzy Caplan), just as the quartet are forced to pull off an impossible heist for tech magnate Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), the illegitimate son of the first film’s baddie, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine).

For a good deal of its runtime, Now You See Me 2 is a surprisingly entertaining outing; director Jon M. Chu boasts visual flare to spare, the character banter is amusing, and it essentially recreates the excitement that the first film boasted for about two-thirds of its run-time.

This sequel also benefits from an undeniable casting upgrade, bringing almost everyone back as well as new recruits Caplan and Radcliffe, who more than hold their own here. Caplan is a welcome estrogen injection even if the film thankfully doesn’t draw too much attention to her being a “girl” and just allows her to be a character, while Radcliffe’s mustache-twirling villain is a campy delight.

The pic becomes unstuck later in the day, just as its predecessor did, hurling an array of increasingly ludicrous twists into the mix, some of which work in spite of themselves and a final kick in the teeth that absolutely doesn’t. Needless to say, if you felt that the Mark Ruffalo reveal at the end of the original was too convoluted, NYSM2 one-ups it with a “gotcha!” moment that’s even lazier and less believable.

Still, if you liked the first enough to check out number two, you’ll probably forgive that, because there is a lot to enjoy here, even if the 129-minute run-time is absolutely excessive. Chu stages stylish set-pieces even if several of them probably go on about three weeks too long (especially a nifty-if-protracted sleight-of-hand sequence), and it goes without saying that the cast are a terrific mix of talents who bounce dialogue well off one another. It’s not Shakespeare, it’s not even street theater, but it’s a perfectly acceptable diversion if falling slightly short of being actually good.

** 1/2

Now You See Me 2 is in cinemas now

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