As dumb as the 2013 ending was (and it WAS really dumb), the Four Horsemen are still fugitives from the law, but always under the ever omnipresent “The Eye”, whatever or whoever that is (it’s never explained). Our Horsemen are: mentalist Merritt McKinley (Woody Harrelson), team leader and sleight-of-hand master Danny Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), card expert Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), and newbie magician Lula (Lizzy Caplan). Ilsa Fisher was pregnant and couldn’t reprise her role as Henley Reeves, so they wrote her out by saying “she couldn’t handle the group, so she just left”. Seriously. That’s how they explained it.
Anyway, the Four Horsemen’s mentor, FBI man Dylan Rhodes (Mark Ruffalo), tells them a year later to reassemble because they need to take down a shady internet mogul whose OCTA computer program would steal all your personal info without your consent or knowledge. Does Snowden know about this guy? After some hi-tech, razzle-dazzle Mission: Impossible type “magic”, they manage to stop his world presentation show, BUT! Their pre-emptive strike is usurped by another hi-tech wizard that traps the four and “teleports” them to Macau, China.
There, the gang meet diabolical electronics mastermind and off-the-grid Hong Kong kingpin, Walter Mabry (Daniel Radcliffe), and his loopy henchman, Chase McKinney, Merrit’s estranged twin brother (Harrelson again). Mabry, thought dead, blackmails the four into stealing the OCTA’s super computer chip (he invented it, you see) so he can remain hidden and still deal in his illegal and unethical practices. While the guys plot how to steal the chip which, quite coincidentally, is exactly the same size as a playing card, Rhodes springs his old nemesis, Thaddeus Bradley (Morgan Freeman) out of jail so he can help find them.
The gang, through some card-playing shenanigans, manage to rip-off the computer chip, but realized later they’ve been played and decide to turn the tables on Mabry, who turns out to be the son of the first film’s antagonist, Arthur Tressler (Michael Caine). Tipping off the world, they announce they’re gonna make a “big reveal” somewhere in London on New Year’s Eve. The FBI and Bradley move in, Mabry and dad move in with all their super-electronics gear, and Rhodes joins his team after nearly being killed by Mabry. The BIG showstopper/reveal at the end is a joke and requires more than your suspended disbelief.
Written by Ed Solomon (who wrote the first movie–and hasn’t improved here), this sloppy, illogical, implausible, unfunny, boring, and just plain stupid screenplay has you believing that hypnotism is as simple as smacking someone on the shoulders, that mentally moving raindrops in mid-air is possible, and that someone can actually disappear. . . for real! And not a single wand or incantation muttered anywhere! The stilted story itself is more M:I than it’s predecessor, which at least had more ‘magic’ in it; NOW the guys are more secret agents than magicians. What’s next? A TV show where they solve crime each week with their “magic” like Scorpion? Acckk! Need I even mention the terrible plot holes and deus ex machinas all over the place?
Director Jon M. Chu does a fair job here, but his real weakness lies in all the action and fight scenes, which are shot so fast, so close-up, and with so many jarring slam-edits, you can’t figure out what’s going on. Lizzy Caplan can’t match the pizzazz that Fisher captured on screen and the rest of the cast look either utterly bored or just there for a paycheck. At least Radcliffe gives it some effort, playing a meany who “loves magic” with a little wink ‘n’ nod to his most famous character ever. Worse yet, the finale hints at a part three. NO! Please, somebody do the Avada Kedavra curse on me and get it over with!!
The Man Who Could Work Miracles (1936)
Magic or miracles? You decide. Based on a H.G. Wells short story and adapted by Lajos Biro, this wickedly brilliant black and white masterpiece tells the simple yet effective tale of an ordinary man who is unexpectedly handed the power of the gods. Remember the old saying, “Power corrupts. And absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Could you handle all this ‘magic’ at your fingertips?
One day, the gods (or angels) are bored and want to experiment. Can Man handle absolute power? Pointing a finger at a random guy, they choose a timid little man named George Fotheringay (Roland Young) in a quaint English village. After work in a haberdashery, he strolls to his favorite inn, the Long Dragon Pub, and begins arguing with his friends about miracles and their impossibility. But during this argument, he calls upon his “will” to force an oil lamp to turn upside down. And it DOES! The bartender freaks out, the people there freak out, and HE freaks out. But then…
Arriving home, he delights in performing more tricks alone: disappearing candles, lifting his table and his bed, making a kitten appear, and turning his bed into a cornucopia of fruits and fluffy bunnies. Bolstered by this, he goes to work and tells his would-be sweetheart, Maggie Hooper (Sophie Stewart) all about it. Naturally, she and everyone there, start to tell him what to do with his new powers. George asks the local priest (Ernest Thesigar) who suggests he speak to the learned Colonel Winstanley (Ralph Richarson), but that does no good, as the NRA loving Colonel wants George to wipe out all the “bad people” in the world.
As the film progresses, George grows a serious backbone and starts to take charge of his life, using his ‘magic’ to sway and even scare people into his bidding. But he can’t force Maggie, his one true love, to fall for him, as his power can’t alter the human heart or soul. Pretty soon, everyone is deathly afraid of George, as he wields his power like a madman, building a ginormous temple to himself and warning every king and dictator on Earth to beware of his wrath. The ending is jaw-dropping with George actually destroying Earth! But, don’t worry, there’s a happy ending, I promise.
Roland Young, as George, scored big time here in his perfect portrayal of an almost antisocial man who slowly turns into a megalomaniac with a massive and dangerous ego. The transformation is slow and wonderful to watch and catapulted Young into the limelight and, only a year later, would make him a household name as he would go on to star in the Topper series; a henpecked timid man who only can see and talk to some very outrageous ghosts.
Directed by Lothar Mendes and using pretty cool 1936 SPFX (which were impressive for the time), TMWCWM is a classic morality tale that spans all decades, and makes you wonder what YOU would do if you were given the power of the gods. Would you do good? Eliminate war, disease, and poverty OR would you be corrupted by it’s sheer power and go nuts? Hmmm…