Woody Harrelson is one of Hollywood’s mainstays, cranking out all manners of hit movies over the years. Some are box office smashes, others more artsy and introspective. Some both. He’s shown the ability to play a ton of different roles and has even aged into new parts gracefully. He’s still very much at the top of his game these days with a number of flicks in the pipeline. But one of his films from a few years ago is blowing up on streaming right now with a little sleight of hand at its focus. That’s right, Now You See Me 2 is ranked #6 globally on Netflix.
Now You See Me 2, starring Woody Harrelson, is the follow-up movie to the original story about a group of magicians who get themselves all the way down the rabbit hole in conspiracy and government corruption. The original film straddled the line of seeming sleight of hand and actual magic calling into some question ideas about reality and illusion. It was a fairly ambitious film that left the audience guessing throughout. In the end, The Four Horsemen, a group of magicians who are suspected in a bank vault robbery are able to escape and become part of a secret society. Woody Harrelson is part of the group, playing Merritt McKinney who has a hypnotist specialty.
The sequel picks up over a year after the events of the original film and has the magicians group on the run from the authorities. They are dropped into a new conspiracy, this one focused on a cellphone tycoon and the idea that innocent people will have their private info sold on the black market. The Horsemen are charged with exposing the conspiracy while also eluding capture from the authorities. It’s a fast-paced, constantly moving film that has the viewer on his/her heels most of the time around who to trust. In this way, it’s much like its predecessor which brought the illusion aspect into the forefront of the plot. Much like a magic show, nothing in these movies is as it seems. Here, check out a trailer for Now You See Me 2:
You can see from the trailer that the film is slick and stylized, playing on the frenetic energy of actual magic shows while posing something of a heist film in there as well. The Four Horsemen are comprised of J. Daniel Atlas (Jesse Eisenberg), Jack Wilder (Dave Franco), Merritt McKinney (Woody Harrelson), and Lula May (Lizzy Caplan who replaces Isla Fisher from the original). And rest of the cast is top-notch as well. There’s Mark Ruffalo as their de facto handler, Daniel Radcliffe as a tech tycoon playboy, Michael Caine as an aging sponsor, and Morgan Freeman as the central antagonist. It’s worth noting too that Harrelson actually pulls double duty in this film, also playing his own twin brother.
For all of its style, Now You See Me 2, definitely underperformed with critics, scoring 33% on Rotten Tomatoes and 46 on Metacritic. Critics were underwhelmed by the proceedings feeling like the magic tricks and illusions in the film had severely diminishing returns compared to the first go around. For Woody Harrelson, the movies stood in stark contrast to the other franchise he was involved with at the time. That was The Hunger Games in which he played Haymitch Abernathy, the alcoholic gut sage guide for Katniss.
Where the two movies aligned and what put Woody Harrelson at the top of the monetary game was that during this stretch from 2012-2016 he put out four movies for The Hunger Games and two for Now You See Me. The former totaled almost $3 billion in worldwide box office sales and the latter rang in at almost $700 million. That put the actor near the mountaintop during this stretch when it came to taking part in blockbuster films.
Woody Harrelson isn’t slowing down at all. This year, he’ll be reprising his role as Cletus Kasady in the Venom sequel Let There Be Carnage. He’ll also star alongside Kaley Cuoco in The Man From Toronto about an Airbnb rental gone totally wrong. He’s also been slated to star as Timothy Leary in the series The Most Dangerous Man in America. So you can see, the guy is still crushing it with high-profile roles. But catch him now performing tricks that are more than meet the eye in Now You See Me 2. It might not have crushed with critics, but it’s taking over Netflix right now.