Kick-Ass 2 (2013) / Action-Comedy
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity
Running time: 103 min.
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Lindy Booth, Garrett M. Brown, Claudia Lee, Clark Duke, Augustus Prew, Donald Faison, Olga Kurkulina, Matt Steinberg, Stephen Mackintosh, Monica Dolan, Lyndsy Fonseca, Daniel Kaluuya
Small role: Chuck Lidell
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Screenplay: Jeff Wadlow (based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.)
Review published August 17, 2013
Warning: if the 'B word', 'C word' or 'F word' are going to offend you, regardless of context, you're advised to steer clear of not only the review below, but also this movie which features all three words quite prominently.
Prior to the film's release, supporting player Jim Carrey (A Christmas Carol, Yes Man) generated some headlines due to his decision to not promote Kick-Ass 2 citing his change of heart in doing violent films featuring children following school shooting incidents like Sandy Hook. As noble a reason as that might seem to some, perhaps just as good is that Kick-Ass 2 is so wretched that it not only shouldn't be seen by kids, but pretty much anyone else, save perhaps for those completely titillated by any feeble rails against political correctness for the sake of seeming hip and edgy.
Kick-Ass 2 finds our wanna-be superhero, Dave Lizewski (Taylor-Johnson, Anna Karenina) -- aka Kick-Ass -- inspiring a whole new generation of would-be superheroes to don a costume and get out there to fight crime on their own. Dave is busy honing his fighting skills with Mindy Macready (Moretz, Dark Shadows) -- aka Hit Girl -- though it gets her into a lot of hot water with her guardian, Det. Marcus Williams (Chestnut, The Call), who makes her swear to give up her life as a vigilante for good and concentrate on being a normal high school kid. It also sees Chris D'Amico (Mintz-Plasse, The To Do List), hero-turned-villain Red Mist from the first Kick-Ass, finally take up the mantle as the world's first super-villain with the new moniker of 'Mother Fucker', now donning a bunch of feminine fetish leather-and-latex garb, whose main goal is to crush Kick-Ass and everything he stands for as revenge for killing his father.
Knowing he can't really make it alone now that Hit Girl's mentoring days are behind her, Kick-Ass finds himself joining forces with a crime-fighting super-team known as Justice Forever, headed by the ex-Mafia vigilante known as Col. Stars and Stripes (Carrey). Meanwhile, Mother Fucker is drafting an army of super villains of his own, leading to a grand-scale battle between the forces of good and evil for control of the city.
Taking over the reins of writing and directing from Matthew Vaughn is Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down, Cry_Wolf). The first mistake that Wadlow makes is by removing the biggest hook that made Kick-Ass different than the rest of the superhero films. While the first entry featured heavily stylized violence and over-the-top action scenes, the premise is that every person in the film is rooted in the so-called real world, where they have everyday problems and ability to get hurt. We had an inkling that the heroes we were watching could actually die within the course of the story, which made their scenes of battle just that much more exciting. The message of the story is, contrary to what we see in comics and adaptations, being a costumed vigilante is a deeply dangerous act that is definitely not for the weak (or the wise).
For not a single moment in Kick-Ass 2 do we ever feel like our heroes will not prevail; they may still get hurt, and some characters may die (ones that were written into the film for that very purpose), but we just have that confidence that their bacon will be saved at the last second each and every time. Going against the grain of its very premise, it also posits that anyone with a costume can be a superhero, as we see dozens, if not hundreds, of the foolhardy come out of the woodworks in order to be the next Kick-Ass, despite the fact that Kick-Ass himself seems to have learned few skills beyond that which we saw him perform in the first film.
That predictability is just one of many things this sequel does wrong. Another major one is that Wadlow mistakenly believes that Kick-Ass's appeal is that it is ruder, cruder, and more willing to be controversial than any other superhero franchise out there. While it's true that the first film had been proud to showcase excessive violence, it wasn't so crass as to demean women at every opportunity possible as 'bitches', 'cunts', or sex objects, as they are in this film. It also didn't push the boundaries of good taste; Vaughn didn't need to succumb to scenes projectile vomiting and explosive diarrhea to try to seem cutting-edge or drum up cheap laughs. It was violent and profane, it is true, but not overtly debasing or scatological. There is even an attempt at a rape scene; we're supposed to laugh that the perpetrator of the attempted rape suffers from a moment of erectile dysfunction. Yes, really.
The best one can say for Kick-Ass 2 is that it features comical performances by an energetic cast. Carrey's less-screen-time-than-you'd-think Colonel take is amusing, though ultimately without much consequence to the film as a whole except to give the production a little bit of star power. Yet again, Hit-Girl steals the show with every scene she is in, and this film wisely ups her importance, though it does come at the detraction of Kick-Ass as the main star, who already is diminished by being but one of a team of heroes. Taylor-Johnson remains likeably bland, though, despite his character's name on the title, he isn't given nearly as much to do in this sequel except to be the conduit through which the plot can propel more of the colorful supporting characters to the forefront.
The end of the film features a 'battle royale' between the motley array of mostly no-name costumed good guys and costumed bad guys, which begs the question as to how most of these characters who are seeing each other for the first time can draw the distinction between them to make sure they are only fighting nemeses on the other side of the law. But then, by the time you're this far into the movie, you've either resolved to go with every nonsensical flow of the film or have long since ditched the possibility that they would right this ship before it crashed and sank from its reckless attempts at a plausible narrative arc.
Though it continues with more of the same characters and R-rated envelope pushing, this sequel can't come close to capturing Kick-Ass's tongue-in-cheek chutzpah and adrenaline-charged action. The wit is gone, as is the choice irony -- it's more like someone tagged Kick-Ass with a "SIC Stick" and filmed the results. Suck-Ass would have been a better title for this disappointingly dreary regurgitation.
Note: There is an additional scene following the credits that is only of interest for those who are still fired up for a possible third entry in the series.
©2013 Vince Leo