When “Kick-Ass” burst onto the scene back in 2010, it was a fresh take on the superhero genre, utilizing the “anyone can be a superhero” premise to great advantage. It was fun, humorous, and rather violent (what do you expect from a movie with such a title?). It seemed practically inevitable, given the film’s great success, that we’d be seeing “Kick-Ass 2” as soon as it could be churned out, but would it be possible to recapture all the elements that had made the original work so well without making it seem like just a retread? Turns out it wouldn’t be as easy as they thought.
Picking up not long after the events of the first film, we find Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) training with Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz) in order to be a more self-sufficient superhero. When her adoptive father, Detective Marcus Williams (David Chestnut), discovers that she’s still going out as Hit-Girl, he makes her promise that she’ll never do it again, leaving Kick-Ass on his own. This leads him to seek out other companions, eventually coming across a group known as “Justice Forever,” led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Together, they take to the streets to fight crime. Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), formerly known as Red Mist, dawns a new identity and plots revenge for his father’s death using his own army.
In their attempt to recapture past glory, these filmmakers have ended up with a sequel that lacks the freshness of the original film. In essence, it brings nothing new to the table, satisfied with simply throwing these characters together again and hoping that everything will turn out for the best. The writer, Jeff Wadlow (from a comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.), tries to throw in some new characters, such as Colonel Stars and Stripes and Night Bitch, but it’s just not enough to save a film whose core is this banal.
One of the major issues is that Hit-Girl, who was widely regarded as the most interesting character of the first film, gets sidelined into a terrible subplot about trying to become a “normal” high school girl by joining up with some airheads who are fascinated with boys and cheerleading. We do get some classic Hit-Girl action at the beginning and end of the film, but as to why the filmmakers would choose to keep her tucked away in a subplot that is nothing but a cliché is a total mystery.
Speaking of tucked away, it seemed as though the titular character was given even less screentime than he was in the first film, and even when he was present, he’s given so little to do that he becomes a rather forgettable presence in his own movie. Instead, most of the time is taken up with Hit-Girl’s unfortunate tale and the villain’s attempt to band together his criminal army for his evil deeds, which revolve around revenge on Kick-Ass and blowing up the city.
The villain presented another problem. While Mintz-Plasse exudes an interesting personality, the character he is given to play is paper-thin (a criticism that can actually be made of pretty much everyone in this film) with his dastardly deeds presenting nothing but more clichés. When you end up having little interest in both your protagonists and your antagonists, you’re going to be in for a long sit, and indeed, these 103 minutes felt like they went on for much longer.
As far as the action (a major highlight of the first film) goes, you get a few decent sequences. Go figure the best one involves Hit-Girl as she climbs all over a moving van that contains criminals who have kidnapped Kick-Ass. It’s thrilling, well-shot, and is something that the film desperately needed more of given that you don’t get much of a thrill out of the climax, which merely involves heroes and villains beating the snot out of each other.
The theme of ordinary people taking the law into their hands played well in “Kick-Ass,” but it seems to have completely run its course for “Kick-Ass 2.” I’ve already heard it suggested from several people that Hit-Girl needs her own spin-off film. If this is the best we’re going to get with a sequel, then I’d be all for giving her a shot on her own. She had the deepest character arc in the first film, but unfortunately got put in corner for most of this entry. If she were to be utilized in a film that injects some much-needed freshness into the story, then there just might be some hope for this franchise yet. 2/4 stars.
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