Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Morris Chestnut, Claudia Lee, Clark Duke, Augustua Prew, Jim Carret, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Garrett M. Brown
What would happen if the everyday comic book nerd tried to be a superhero? We’re not talking Watchmen realism, the down and dirty Punisher realism, or even the Christopher Nolan Batman realism; we’re asking what would happen in our world? This was the fundamental question begged in 2010’s action/comedy superhero spoof “Kick-Ass”, and it made for one heck of a movie that was smart, funny, and relentlessly dark and brutal. The first movie dealt with a world where a teenager and other vigilantes took on the mob, but the sequel is now looking at the more difficult question. Once someone decides to play superhero, what are the consequences of that and how does the rest of the world react? Can the Kick-Ass sequel deliver the wit and edge of the original or is the first film better left as a stand-alone story?
“Kick-Ass 2” picks up a couple of years after the original with Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who is bored with his senior year of high school and wants to get back into the world of crime fighting as Kick-Ass. He calls on Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz) to return to her role as Hit-Girl to train him so that he can get back to patrolling the streets. The two begin training together, but after getting caught by her guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut), Hit-Girl hangs up the purple wig to try her shot at being a normal freshman girl. After the news, Kick-Ass looks for others to crime fight with and eventually gets connected to a group called “Justice Forever” led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). As the vigilantes begin popping up all over New York, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) becomes hell bent on getting revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his father. With the help of his loyal bodyguard Javier (John Leguizamo) Chris dons a new costume to become “The Motherfucker” and begins building a team of super villains to take down Kick-Ass and Justice Forever.
In a surprising turn of events, the story of “Kick-Ass 2” actually seems like a natural and organic progression of the world and events depicted in the first film. Kick-Ass putting on the mask and fighting with Big Daddy opened up the Pandora’s box of masked vigilantism. This movie looks at the consequences of these actions, which means that not only is every kid on the block wearing costumes, but there are also people as rich and resourceful as Chris D’Amico who are no longer afraid to use their wealth for evil. This aspect of the story was easily its strongest as it revisits one of the oldest questions about the nature of superheroes which is whether or not there would be super villains to stop if it weren’t for the superheroes who raised the bar.
“Kick-Ass 2” has plenty of rich themes and cool ideas to explore, but sadly writer/director Jeff Wadlow lacks any subtlety in getting his message across. The movie makes no bones about spelling its ideas out. By the end, the movie is essentially baby feeding the audience even the most obvious ideas with lines like “this is not a comic book” or “we live in a real world where people really die”. It doesn’t unravel the movie, but only reinforces the idea that audiences aren’t able to understand even the most basic of ideas.
The title of the movie may be “Kick-Ass 2” but the real stars of the show are Hit Girl, Colonel Stars and Stripes, and Chris D’Amico. As it stands, Dave comes across more like a self-centered prick than a likable hero where Mindy shines as the real hero even when she’s left out of the spotlight for most of the movie. Chloe Grace Mortez continues to prove that she’s one of the finest child actors in the business with her vulnerable performance as a killing machine who is actually very insecure about her identity outside of crime fighting. In many ways the movie serves as a coming of age story for her character that comes to understand just what being “normal” in high school can cost a person.
Nicolas Cage may not be in this movie, but Jim Carrey’s short but sweet turn as former mob enforcer turned leader of Justice Forever more than makes up for it with his scene chewing delivery. The Colonel may only occupy a handful of scenes, but the film never wastes a second to make the character more than just another masked vigilante. Christopher Mintz plays D’Amico dangerously close to cartoonish, but the outlandish nature of this character’s obsession fits the performance which ultimately makes for a character that is unintentionally morphed into a sociopath that somehow still manages to have a hint of sympathy at his core.
Kick-Ass 2 takes the profane amount of gratuitous violence and ups the anti even more which results in a movie that almost revels in its violence a bit too much for its own good. I’m all for the over the top violence, especially in parody to the bloodless superhero movies that are box office hits, but Kick-Ass 2 teeters the line between comedy and brutality in a way that is almost tonally inconsistent. At times the movie is dark and bloody for the sake of shock with no humor or parody, which is a stark contrast to other scenes of violence that are played entirely for laughs. It’s not a fatal flaw, but it does reveal that writer/director Jeffery Wadlow lacks the experience to understand what the point of the the violence was in the first place.
Kick-Ass 2 is a worthy follow-up to the original that stumbles in its storytelling techniques, but doesn’t forget why people connect with this type of superhero story in the first place. While the title character is pretty weak, the movie has an exciting and rich cast of characters that are off-the-wall, unpredictable, and still somehow believable. The movie has answers to ideas introduced in the first film, but also brings enough of its own ideas to stay fresh. The movie isn’t perfect and it won’t win any new viewers over, but fans of the first film and the niche it filled should satisfied with what Kick-Ass 2 delivers.