|'Radcliffe in particular is clearly here for the "LOLs", relishing every moment of playing a character of questionable integrity'.|
Louis Leterrier's Now You See Me proved that a flashy summer blockbuster can get by well enough on the strength of its cast alone even with some rather large gaps in the logic of its plot. Taking over directorial duties for the sequel, Jon M. Chu fails to pull off the same trick twice, offering a film that not only struggles to offer any semblance of sense within its own story, but actually causes the first film to make even less sense than it already did.
Returning writer Ed Solomon is clearly uninterested in constructing a coherent narrative beyond the opening act, which sees the Four Horsemen - J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco) and new member Lula May (Lizzy Caplan) - re-emerge a year after the end of the first film only to have their comeback hijacked and the group unwittingly transported from America to Macau. It's around the point soon after the group's arrival in China at which Harrelson is revealed to also be playing Merritt's twin brother Chase - which involves the actor donning a curly wig and ridiculous teeth - that the level Chu is aiming for becomes abundantly clear.
Once the Horsemen have met technology tycoon Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), Now You See Me 2 devolves into a logic-free series of events combining action and heist sequences with CGI-heavy magic. Chu desperately wants his film to become the conjuring equivalent of Ocean's Eleven, but never even comes close to matching the worst bits of Ocean's Twelve. By the time we reach the ludicrous finale, it's fairly apparent that nobody behind the camera is even trying to make matters hang together in a way that makes sense any more.
Every new thread that Solomon introduces is one that neither he nor Chu can be bothered to develop properly. Whether it's Atlas' ambition to lead the Horsemen, the teased romance between Jack and Lula, or Jack and Merritt teaching each other their respective specialisms, you won't care about any of them. Worse still is the fact that Solomon apparently couldn't be bothered to return to the first film to provide any continuity between it and the sequel. One revelation in particular at the very end not only beggars belief within Now You See Me 2's own story, but essentially renders everything that happened in Leterrier's original as irretrievable nonsense.
In the end, the only thing Chu's film has going for it is that everyone in front of the camera (aside from a particularly po-faced Michael Caine) is fully aware that what they're making is blockbuster garbage, and therefore has as much fun with it as they can. Radcliffe in particular is clearly here for the "LOLs", relishing every moment of playing a character of questionable integrity, even if it's a poorly written one. What that adds up to is a film that's very dumb, occasionally fun, but that never aspires to be anything more.