It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
I'm 100% in support of the "Now You See Me" films in theory. They're lighthearted, original entertainments, they're filled with charismatic actors playing hip, attractive characters, they aren't remakes or adaptations of pre-existing properties, and they fully embrace their ridiculous premise: that rock-star-awesome magicians can play Robin Hood, standing up against scheming fat cats who try to bully the world with money. Unfortunately, the execution of the first movie was lacking, to say the least. Rather than find a way to convey the idea of sleight-of-hand in purely cinematic terms, by playing games with framing so that the eye is misdirected, it just showed you things and then explained via tedious expository dialogue and flashbacks that it wasn't what you thought it was. The result was a bit like hearing a friend tell you about an awesome magic show: you just had to take his word that it was awesome while wishing you'd actually been there to experience it.
"Now You See Me 2," which reunites the crusading magicians for another heist/adventure, offers more of the same narrative shortcuts, substituting extensive flashbacks, whirling camerawork and digital effects for a truly magical sensibility. There's not much awe showcased here. The film is mainly horseplay, wasted motion, and talk, talk, talk, with a few good action scenes, the best of which involves the main characters passing a card back and forth in a laboratory, and enough smart-alecky banter between skilled actors that the time passes painlessly enough.
Like the last film, it has a lot of plot—so much that after a while it might as well not have any at all. The Four Horsemen—including newcomer Lula (Lizzy Caplan), a geek trick specialist who replaces the last film's Henley Reeves (Isla Fisher)—get ensnared in a diabolical scheme masterminded by billionaire Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), who has access to a chip that can instantly scoop up private data from every mobile device on the planet. This story intertwines with a revenge plot pitting FBI agent and secret Four Horsemen fifth columnist Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo) against magic debunker Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman), who was incarcerated at the end of the last movie but pulls strings from his prison cell in this one.
There's a related revenge plot involving the group's patron from the last film, Michael Caine's billionaire Arthur Tressler. I'll be a good sport and refrain from saying precisely how Tressler fits in, even though there's no point being coy: although the script delays Tressler's entrance until fairly deep into the picture, Caine is featured prominently in the ad campaign, and you figure out his relationship to the story the instant you see him again.