Seeing is Not Believing
By Skip Sheffield
After a particularly trying week, I was in need of some escape in the form of light, mindless entertainment. I found it in “Now You See Me 2.”
The 2013 original, created by writer Ed Solomon, was fun because it had the novel idea of four professional magicians calling themselves The Four Horsemen, who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, like Robin Hood, using spectacular illusions as diversions.
Most of the cast is back for the sequel, also written by Solomon, and direction is by Jon Chu, who did a couple “Step Up” movies and “Men in Black.”
There are a couple of welcome additions. Lizzy Caplan is the first female horseman, Lula. She is smart, sexy and easy on the eyes. For a villain we have little Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, trying to act tough as a young tech genius who wants to rule the world via computer with a doomsday key to every computer on the planet. This is improbable enough, but Radcliffe’s Walter Mabry is supposed to be the son of Michael Caine’s Arthur Tressler. Yeah, pint-sized grandson maybe.
Returning are Jesse Eisenberg as illusionist Daniel Atlas.Morgan Freeman is Thaddeus Bradley, a former Horseman with a grudge. Woody Harrelson does double duty as hypnotist Merritt McKinney and his ridiculous evil twin brother, with capped teeth and bushy toupee.
Also new is Dave Franco as magician Jack Wilder, who doesn’t have much to do.
The story begins with Mark Ruffalo as a boy, witnessing the drowning death of his escape artist father, who failed to escape in time from a locked, submerged safe. Ruffalo’s character of Dylan Rhodes grows up to be an FBI agent, but at heart he wants to be an illusionist like his dad. Rhodes’ rogue behavior keeps him at odds with by-the-books FBI superior, Cowan (David Warshovsky).
The plot is basically a set-up for ever more unbelievable stunts, leading to a grand finale on the Thames River in London. Movie magic can make anything possible. We know that, and that’s why it is impossible to take “Now You See Me 2” seriously. But it is a flashy and pleasant diversion. It may work for you as it did for me.