Magic shows have always had a somewhat hokey appeal whether it be the 70’s TV magician David Nixon sawing a woman in half, or Paul Daniels screeching, ‘That’s Magic!’ at every trick he performs. Cynical Londoners are especially averse to showmen like David Blaine suspending himself in a glass box over the Thames for weeks on end only to get pelted with half eaten burgers and bottles of stale urine for his efforts by drunken partygoers leaving him to wonder why he didn’t do the stunt in Vegas instead. But everyone seems to have a party trick they can do including our Editor whose ability to make a pint of lager disappear in seconds is a sight to behold.
So 2012’s magic trick extravaganza ‘Now You See Me’ was an unexpected but highly enjoyable success and with its impressive illusions and sneaky double crosses it’s a formula the film makers have kept adding only Daniel Radcliffe as the villain, a London Finale and replacing Isla Fischer with a quirky Lizzy Caplan
This is a sequel that requires a certain knowledge of the first film but the magicians known collectively as the Horsemen with their leader FBI agent Mark Ruffalo having now gone underground after the collective fleeced Michael Caine’s businessman of his millions and had Morgan Freeman imprisoned. The film opens with Ruffalo as a boy watching his magician father perform a feat of escaplology with fatal results. It’s a bit of a grim opening to what is a bit of showbiz glam entertainment which unlike Mitchell & Webb’s disastrous film, ‘ Magicians’ is not played for laughs and it’s a scene which is replayed in claustrophobically uncomfortable style later on. It’s also one of the strands of the film with more to it than originally appears and it’s typical of the story that nothing is as it seems.
With the horsemen having been publicly unveiled an unknown man of mystery they find themselves at the mercy of a young entrepreneur Daniel Radcliffe who, like them, has disappeared having manufactured his own death purely to get the team to steal back a microchip stolen from him by an ex business partner. From here the double crosses pile up and it all gets satisfactorily complex with Ruffalo& Freeman history being further explored.
There’s less showy tricks than the first film but there are some super slick and stylish sequences notably the scene set in a high security control centre using a playing card. It’s a film stealing set piece and like much of the film requires a suspension of belief to make it all work which includes the climactic scene in London which requires an enormous pinch of salt that these wanted fugitives are able to perform an immensely involved trick on New Years Eve that’s televised around the world whilst the FBI are openly operating in the city brandishing firearms without impunity. But in many ways that’s part of the charm of these films with enjoyable tricks which the film backtracks on and lets you in on the secret explaining how it’s all done all topped with a number of credibilty stretching double crosses. The cast are uniformly good apart from the twin brother that Woody Harrelson also plays who is irksomely irritating in what is a highly entertaining and super slick romp.
(You can see Dave Franco introduce the film to a London audience on our You Tube channel)
Here’s the trailer: