‘Now You See Me 2’, old wine in new skin

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TWISTS, sleight of hand and special effects have worked well for “Now You See Me”. After the release of the first movie back in 2003, we were all left in awe and captivated by the special effects and numerous movie twists, especially the great reveal, at the end, that FBI agent Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) was the mastermind of everything.The second entry, released worldwide a fortnight ago, Jon M Chu, now in the director’s chair, managed to blend great storytelling and most of the CGI and catchy imagery that made the first movie great. However, the real question remains; are twists, sleight of hand and special effects enough to carry an entire franchise, especially now that a third entry is already in the works?

Well, I think they can. I say so because back in 2001 a small film was introduced to the world that centralised its entire premise around a gang of street racers who would go around stealing cars and money during the off time.

Its entire appeal was solely around gritty car chases, stunts and couple of easy on the eye leads. Over a decade-and-a-half later, the film is now ranked amongst one of the most successful franchises in the business, grossing over US$3 billion worldwide in revenue.

I am talking about “The Fast and Furious”, in case anyone was wondering. If that small and simple premise can give birth to such a successful franchise, why can’t this one?

Anywhere, I digress! The latest entry in this ever growing franchise “Now You See Me 2”, is delicately sold caper thriller that follows our heroes Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson) and Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), collectively known as the Four Horseman, come out of hiding and try to stop a billionaire from selling a new piece of technology, that can break into any computer software, on the black market. Now missing a fourth, the team recruits a new member in Lulu May (Lizzy Caplan) and no sooner have they done that do a couple of old enemies return and throw a spanner in their otherwise clever and well executed plan.

The plan gets turned on its head, gives way to a new plot, employs a couple of chases and movie twists; all setting us up for a great reveal at the end. The film has all the magic of the first, but goes a step further and weaves together a very interesting story.

Agent Dylan Rhodes (Ruffalo), much like in the first film, is the central cog of the entire story, film and franchise; working in plain sight with the FBI, while secretly leading the Four Horseman.

He is the embodiment of a true magician as he uses trickery to throw the scent away from the public, all the while hiding his true self.

The film delves again into his past and that said motivation, as we finally solve the mystery of what happened to his father and the true nature of the secret organisation, The Eye, which he works for. Performance-wise, this is arguably the most balanced set of characters I have ever seen in my years of movie watching.

Eisenberg is the embodiment of his character Danny Atlas; and after the colossal disappointment that was his take on Lex Luther in “Batman v Superman”, this statement really pained me to write. His eccentricities and mannerism really blended well with the requirements of the role.

Ruffalo, on the other hand, digs deep into his acting chops as the emotionally tormented soul that is Rhodes, often skipping between the ultra-confident agent and emotionally scarred man who watched his father die as a young boy. It is a real treat to watch them exchange barbs and stuff.

As far as supporting acts go, it would be a difficult job trying to find a better pair than Morgan Freeman (Thaddeus Bradley) and Michael Caine (Arthur Tressler).

Freeman kills me with his presence, in any movie he is in, and that voice of his speaks of true authority.

Michael Caine, on the other hand, is well Michael Caine.

The only blemishes as far as performances go were the pairing of Harrelson and Caplan. Doing double duty as the twin brothers, Merritt and the evil Chase McKinney, Harrelson does a splendid job on the former and is absolutely terrible in the latter.

In his attempts to separate the two, he goes off the rails and comes off as fake and superficial. Caplan was just annoying and fails in comparison to Isla Fisher, the original femme fetal of the Four Horsemen.

The movie does score big in as afar as fight sequences, easy on the eye CGI and special effects. There is one particular card throwing trick, which forms the basis of a heist.

It comes off with ease and is totally awesome to watch.

There is an element of “Ocean’s Eleven”, about their presentation, in which they amaze with a particular big trick or scene and then offer an explanation afterwards. The execution leaves you in awe.

This, once explored more in future instalments, could be the film’s calling card. I say so only because solely relying on twists and turns in their plots is not really enough to call a franchise, should they go that route. Continuity, solid storylines and plots and eventually growth are vital cognates of a successfully franchise.

 

The film delves again into his past and that said motivation, as we finally solve the mystery of what happened to his father and the true nature of the secret organisation, The Eye, which he works for. Performance-wise, this is arguably the most balanced set of characters I have ever seen in my years of movie watching.

 

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