Part of the fun in the original 2010 Kick-Ass was getting to know the characters for the first time. As each one was revealed you got to know not only their super-hero fantasies and the alter-egos they became, but what it told us about themselves. In the sequel Kick-Ass 2, most of these characters are already established, so the fun of discovery is gone. What we’re left with is a script that basically sets everything up for continual revenge fights, and while the characters are still fun to watch, the film itself doesn’t quite reach that level of freshness discovered in the original.
Kick-Ass 2 takes off not too long after the first adventure ended. Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor) continues to fight crime and has joined a team of other masked vigilantes known as ‘Justice Forever.’ They’re not exactly on the level of, say, the Masked Avengers but their hearts are in the right place. Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz) on the other hand has promised her guardian she will leave her Hit Girl character alone and concentrate on getting through school.
Everything would be fine if it wasn’t for one thing; Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) the spoiled brat of the first film, wants revenge for the death of his gangster father, and even though his mother has thrown out his Red Mist costume with the rest of the garbage, Chris has new plans. He raids his mother’s secret leather fetish costumes and creates a new character, the world’s first official super villain whose name can’t be repeated here, but it’s an adolescent doozy that will make you laugh once Chris announces, with relish, what he intends to call himself.
The film has that same candy-coated look of the original; colors are bright and vivid and the whole thing has that polished sheen of a well-waxed automobile. This time around there is a different writer/director at the helm. The originals have production credits, but the man responsible for the follow-up is Jeff Wadlow, and you can see where he’s checked off all the elements that worked in the first and repeated them here. The problem is, by amping up the volume of violence and teenage crassness in both language and actions he forgot to say when. He appears to have lost sight on what’s funny, what’s violent, and how the two mix. In the end, the sequel has too much of a mean streak throughout. Things that are played for laughs or set up to make you want revenge are often just plain nasty. It dilutes the enjoyment and literally peels away the fun.
In the sequel we get to know Dave’s father a little more. In the first film he was merely someone in the background, but here he turns out to be a surprisingly caring and loving single parent, one who would even go to prison rather than have his son arrested, but it’s what happens to his father in prison that leaves a genuine distasteful impression. It feels so extreme it’s as if what happens to him are moments from a different film.
The same can be said for a fight sequence between a killer Russian female body builder known as Mother Russia and the cops who try to stop her. With a haircut like Dolph Lundgren, and, come to think of it, a body to match, Mother Russia’s fight is played for laughs – her strength and the ability to rip car doors off their frames are the stuff of cartoons – but when she causes a lawn mower to crash through the windscreen of a pursuing cop car, the set up may be preposterous and intended to be on a level of Wily Coyote episode, but it’s executed with the full horror of ugly realism as the mower blades do their job on the faces of the cops. Jim Carrey, who has a short though effective role as Colonel Star and Stripes, has denounced the film’s violence once he saw the finished product. He might be on to something.
However, there are still plenty of guilty pleasures to be had. Like the original, there is good humor that is both sly and even occasionally clever. When one of Dave’s friends discover Dave’s Kick-Ass identity, the boy states with admiration, “It’s like finding out your best friend is Will Smith.” When some of the Justice Forever team are absent from a meeting we find out it’s because they’ve secured tickets to see The Book of Mormon, plus even though Nicolas Cage was killed in the first film, his presence is represented in the second by the most hilarious portrait of a smiling father hanging on his daughter’s wall. It’s pure Cage.
The ending suggests more to come, which is fine as long as some restraint is employed. Plus, at this point, the Kick-Ass character has lost some of his luster. If there’s going to be a third, the makers should forget everything we’ve seen before and concentrate on Hit Girl. After all, with her killer moves and her killer attitude – “I’m in the NFL, Dave, and you’re a Pee Wee” – Chloe Grace Moretz is the real star of the film. When she’s on, Kick-Ass 2 comes alive and revenge has never felt so satisfying.
MPAA Rating: R Length: 113 minutes Overall Rating; 7 (out of 10)