The most preposterous scene in Now You See Me 2—a movie brimming with preposterous scenes—is one in which a group of magicians known as the Four Horsemen tries to smuggle a valuable computer chip out of a secret facility. Suddenly suspicious, their escort orders the guards to search them. The slender chip is attached to a playing card, which the Horsemen attempt to conceal through sleight-of-hand tricks amongst themselves. As the pat-down continues, the magicians’ moves grow more elaborate. After a few minutes, the card is flying around the room in defiance of all known physical laws—from one Horseman’s hand, to the bottom of another’s shoe, up through another Horseman’s sleeve, down a pant leg, under a collar, into a bra, and so on. It’s like a scene out of a Harry Potter film—but with more Muggles, less fun, and (somehow) less logic.
The sequence perhaps captures everything that’s wrong with Now You See Me 2: Magic is supposed to inspire wonder, even if the audience knows it’s all smoke and mirrors and hidden trapdoors and misdirection. But very little about this hollow sequel to 2013’s heist thriller Now You See Me feels mysterious; its biggest set-pieces will make viewers ask not “Whoa, how’d they do that?” but “Wait, huh?” At the center of both films are The Four Horsemen, a group of illusionists following the orders of an ancient magician’s alliance called The Eye. Their “tests” often involve exposing corrupt businessmen or giving jilted people their money back, which turns them into global heroes and gets them in trouble with the FBI (naturally). The sequel, directed by Jon M. Chu, takes the worst elements of the first—a bloated plot, excessive CGI—and doubles down on them over an exhausting 129-minute running time.