"like its predecessor something of a mixed bag, not a bad film, but not an especially great one, but a great deal of fun nonetheless"

Sequels are all the rage nowadays, every film that gets made today will often have a sequel commissioned with a release date already set for two years away before even the first film has had a chance to make its mark.

Some sequels are deserved to follow up on a great first instalment like Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), some films warrant a sequel to continue the story like The Godfather Part II (1974), and some sequels are just retreads of the original, made mainly as a quick cash grab like The Hangover Part II (2011).

The 2013 magical caper Now You See Me was a fun little ride that while enjoyable, didn’t really, in my view, warrant or deserve a sequel. So you can imagine most people’s surprise when this year we got Now You See Me 2, a film that of all the kinds of sequels I described, falls somewhere in the middle.

Set one year after the first film, the magical group dubbed The Horsemen are awaiting their next mission from their leader Rhodes, a magician masquerading as an FBI agent. When they do embark upon their big come back, they are set up and find themselves in Macau, where they are forced to pull off another magical heist by the eccentric Walter Mabry, a technology tycoon previously thought dead.

Most of the cast from the first film reprise their roles here, with the players that make up the Horsemen once more being a likeable and fun team to follow as they embark upon their latest adventure. Woody Harrelson and Dave Franco in particularly make for an enjoyable double act as the two try to teach each other their respective specialist skills, with somewhat mixed success, making for tense moments later on when they try to rely on these new skills later on.

Most noticeable in her absence though is Isla Fisher’s Henley who it is explained, rather clumsily, decided to leave the group, while this may disappoint some, as it did me, given Fisher’s fun performance in the first film, the always reliable Lizzy Caplan as newcomer Lula, makes for a great replacement, giving arguably the best performance of the film, being funny and charming throughout.

Also new to the film is Daniel Radcliffe as eccentric villain Walter Mabry, acting as of kind of a youthful bearded Blofield. While not particularly intimidating or fearsome, Radcliffe makes for a fun villain nonetheless, with the actor clearly having fun with the part, scheming and eager to show off his perceived superiority to the Horsemen.

The real highlights of the film, however, are once again, the magical set pieces in which the characters use their skills of deception and illusion to outsmart their foes, with the film providing many great moments. The best moment for me personally is an incredibly tense and enthralling sequence in which the team attempt to discreetly pass an especially important playing card between each other, all the while being frisked by security guards.

However, despite enjoying this film about the same amount as the first, it still comes off incredibly forced and unnecessary. The story is also not as memorable or interesting as the first film’s magic based bank heist, with it lacking a truly surprising twist as the first one did for its climax, with the revenge of Michael Caine’s character, who enters the film fairly late, feeling unnecessary to the point where it could have easily been discarded and have little to no impact on the rest of the film. Also, why the filmmakers decided to have Woody Harrelson perform a dual role as Merrick’s twin brother still baffles me, with the character becoming increasingly annoying to the point that it almost threatens to undermine Harrelson’s otherwise fine performance as his regular character.

Now You See Me 2 is like its predecessor something of a mixed bag, not a bad film, but not an especially great one, but a great deal of fun nonetheless.

The returning cast all play their parts perfectly once again, and the newcomers provide fresh blood to proceedings, especially Caplan who effectively steals the show as the newest member of the team. The plot lacks originality and feels forced throughout, but the film’s fast pace and exciting set pieces ensure you’ll be too entertained to care too much, with it being another immensely fun magical caper.

While a rumoured third instalment in this surprising franchise would again be completely unnecessary, I must confess that I wouldn’t mind seeing the Horsemen embark upon another magical adventure.