When the original "Kick Ass" was released three years ago, it turned out to be a surprise sleeper hit that really found its legs on the home video market. Unapologetically violent, foul-mouthed, and satirical, "Kick Ass" seemed to be the ultimate niche genre film: a movie with a small but devoted fanbase most noteworthy for launching the career of a brilliant young actress by the name of Chloe Grace Moritz. Little did I know that Hollywood felt the original film's success was enough to merit a sequel. After watching "Kick Ass 2" I'm still not sure the original film merits a sequel.
"Kick-Ass 2" picks things up shortly after the events of the first film. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the original Kick Ass, has given up the super hero business in an effort to be a regular teenager. That doesn't last however and soon Dave is training with Mindy McCready (Moritz) who is spending most of her time fighting crime in the city as Hit Girl. When Mindy is busted by her guardian, her late father's ex-partner Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut), Dave is forced to join up with a team of superhero wannabes led by the extremely capable and slightly bonkers Colonel Stars & Stripes (Jim Carrey) to try to fit in.
Unfortunately, Kick Ass and his friends (calling themselves Justice Forever) aren't the only folks forming a team. Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), still raging over the death of his father at the hands of Kick Ass in the first film, uses his criminal fortune to form an evil team of his own and systematically begins hunting down Kick Ass and his allies. Only by trying to get Mindy to return to her alter ego of Hit Girl can Dave and his friends hope to survive the former Red Mist's (now going by a name that's unsuitable for print here) increasingly violent predations.
Kick Ass 2, like the film that preceded it, is based on the comic book series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. I haven't read the comics, mind you, this new film, unlike many sequels, doesn't suffer from an unnecessary story. I rather liked the idea of having Dave and Mindy grow up together and try to adjust after the events of the first film. What I didn't particularly care for was the way in which some of these elements were executed.
Like the first film, "Kick Ass 2" is filled to the brim with brutal violence and a constant stream of profanity. Unlike the original however, the sequel feels at times to be trying to hard to be shocking or edgy at the expense of the overall story. There are moments of wonderful character work to be found by this especially fine cast, but most of it is buried under director Jeff Wadlow's tedious attempts to shock the audience.
Wadlow, who also wrote the screenplay, fares much better when it comes to the action sequences. There are some really good set pieces here, most of which admittedly revolve around Moritz's Hit Girl. Johnson's Kick Ass isn't quite the loser he was in the first film, and Johnson's got himself incredibly ripped to play the title hero, but he still finds himself flailing about for most of the film and getting his ass handed to him. Wadlow also has some fun with Mindy's attempts to assimilate with the "queen bees" of the high school, coming up with her own inventive (and gleefully gross) method of revenge after the high school divas decide to humiliate her. In fact, most of the best parts of "Kick-Ass 2" involve the sequences with Hit Girl.
The rest of the game cast suffers from the film having too many players. Carrey makes a marvelous impression as Colonel Stars & Stripes, a former mob enforcer turned born again Christian. Carrey manages to tone the crazy down and gives a performance that hints at a depth of humanity underneath the inherently silly costume. Unfortunately Carrey isn't onscreen for all that long and the emotional impact the filmmakers are going for concerning his fate just isn't there.
The other characters suffer the same fate, with only the lovely and feisty Lindy Booth as Night Bitch leaving much of an impression. Of the villains, only the massive Olga Kurkulina as Mother Russia has any lasting impact. Mother Russia is the most lethal of D'Amico's henchmen by far and the scene where she calmly dispatches a bunch of cops is fairly chilling in the mundane way she goes about it. The other villains are simply cardboard dopplegangers of the heroes they oppose.
The worst of the cast is Mintz-Plasse as D'Amico. I usually like him as a comic actor, but he simply doesn't have the chops to be a decent villain. Besides, that high-pitched grating voice of his made me want to put my head in a blender and hit frappe. I would like my bad guy to have gone through puberty before taking control of a vast criminal empire, thank you very much. Most of the crappy parts of this film, not uncoincidently, happen with Mintz-Plasse onscreen.
So overall, "Kick Ass 2" is a fairly entertaining sequel that has its share of flaws, much like many of the films during this summer movie season. It will be gone as quickly as it came and only time will tell whether the fans of the first gravitate to the second on home video because, believe you me, that's the only way "Kick Ass 3" is every going to get made. Still, it's not a total loss and is a passable time waster based almost solely on the strength of the action scenes and Moritz's outstanding performance. Now if they decided to make a solo Hit Girl movie. . .well. . .that would truly be something worth seeing in the theater.
Don't forget to check other reviews and movie news at my blog, Dog's Moviehouse at www.sportsguypatwalsh.com. "Kick Ass 2" is rated R for bloodly violence and a near constant stream of profanity. Should any of this offend you, save your money and see something else.