Three of the Four Horsemen are back in this sequel to 2013’s reasonably successful magician heist movie Now You See Me. Now You See Me 2 (lets take a moment here to acknowledge how crazy it is that this movie is not titled Now You Don’t) picks up a year after the events of the original. Isla Fisher’s Henley has left the group and the remaining Horsemen have been laying low for that last twelve months to avoid the FBI. Sleight of hand expert and illusionist Danny (Jesse Eisenberg), master hypnotist Merritt (Woody Harrelson) and street magician Jack (Dave Franco) are initially resistant to FBI agent and group leader Dylan Rhodes’ (Mark Ruffalo) attempt to add Lizzy Caplan’s fake-out artist Lula to their roster.
They soon change their tune when Rhodes reveals that The Eye, a magician secret society, finally has a new mission for them involving a tech magnate who plans to make millions selling his customers user information on the black market. The Horsemen’s comeback performance exposing said tech magnate’s privacy violating practices to the public goes swimmingly until it’s interrupted by a mysterious antagonist who seems to be out for revenge. Things get worse when the group’s attempt to escape via a chute sees them somehow transported from a rooftop in New York to the back of a restaurant in Macau, where rival tech prodigy Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe) is waiting. He threatens them into stealing a heavily guarded computer chip with devastating potential for him. The Horsemen need to learn how to work together as a team to pull of their greatest trick yet and stay one step ahead of Mabry, old enemies and federal law enforcement.
It is both a compliment and slight insult to director Jon M. Chu (Jem and the Holograms, Step Up 3D) to note that there is little tangible difference between the tone and style of Now You See Me 2 and the Louis Leterrier helmed first instalment. Like the original, Now You See Me 2 unfurls at breakneck speed, jumping from New York to Macau to London, racing through a series of increasingly spectacular set pieces and bewildering plot twists, never giving the viewer a moment to pause and reflect, which is probably wise. Chu unsurprisingly manages to get great performances from his supremely overqualified cast. Woody Harrelson puts his singular loony charm to good use in dual roles while Lizzy Caplan employs her signature droll delivery to decent comic effect and Daniel Radcliffe proves to be a magnificent ham as the film’s primary villain.
Ultimately movies like this one depend on the audience’s willingness to be dazzled. If it catches you in the right mood, Now You See Me 2 is a perfectly adequate bit of popcorn movie fun. If not, there is a decent chance you will find the whole thing implausible and profoundly irritating.