It was a modern day Hollywood miracle that the 2010 superhero flick Kick-Ass was even made, let alone that it found a distributor and eventually its way into theaters where it found a small, but modest amount of success. Despite gaining a following of loyal fans, it was ludicrous to think that we would ever see a sequel though.
Fast forward 3 years later and here we are, Kick-Ass 2 is a reality. While most would think this is a time to rejoice, you might want to keep your enthusiasm in check or else risk getting your expectations kicked square in the ass.
After taking down the local mob boss D’Amico, both Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) have inadvertently created a movement of other vigilante wanna-bes who put on masks of their own and try to rid the city of crime as the superhero team, Justice Forever. Led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), they are faced with the rise of a new criminal who calls himself The Motherf**ker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and his hell bent on getting revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his father with a bazooka.
The first Kick-Ass movie wasn’t perfect. The tone was all over the place, one minute it was parody of superheroes and the next it became exactly what it was a parody of. Aside from the Hit-Girl/Big Daddy relationship, most of the characters weren’t really all that interesting. Even the title character himself did little to inspire any sort of connection or sympathy and was basically relegated to a supporting role in his own movie. What ultimately saved it however was its no-holds-barred attitude and a foulmouthed little girl dressed in purple who eviscerated anyone who stood in her way.
While many of the issues with the first film have been addressed in this follow up (it’s much more consistent with its tone this time around, with possible exception of a potential rape scene), some new and old ones still rear their ugly head from time to time to ruin what should have been a fun escape back into the world of Kick-Ass, but instead becomes an overcrowded and misguided effort that has no real idea where to take its characters and no idea what it was that made that first film click.
The first and most obvious issue at hand is that Kick-Ass once again isn’t the star of his own movie. Joined by dozens of other superheroes, including Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) and Battle Guy (Clark Duke), just to name a few, Kick-Ass quickly gets kicked to the curb in favor of all these new faces who are somehow even less interesting than him. At least we have Hit-Girl to still count on for some thrills as she cuts through mobs of bad guys right?…right? Unfortunately, no.
In quite possibly the worst decision director Jeff Wadlow and/or writer Mark Millar could have made, they have taken the one and only worthwhile character from the first film and stripped her of her superhero garbs and placed her inside a really poor Mean Girls rip-off. For most of the film, Hit-Girl is basically playing the Lindsay Lohan role and let’s face it, nobody wants to be Lindsay Lohan. Mix that with an underdeveloped father/daughter relationship between her and her caretaker (Morris Chestnut), and you have successfully removed the best part of the first film.
What’s worse is that while she is trapped inside this really poor excuse for an Afterschool special, those other superheroes that clutter up the film add absolutely nothing to make up for her absence. Aside from Jim Carrey, who is actually quite good in the role of the leader of Justice Forever, everyone else who wears a mask are instantly forgettable and given no real distinct characteristics to set them apart from one another.
Take Dr. Gravity for instance, who is he? Why he is doing what he is doing? The film isn’t interested in exploring the backgrounds of these other characters who take up much of the screen time, which is just adding insult to injury. Night Bitch appears to be heading down a path of interest when she hooks up with Kick-Ass, but that “relationship” is quickly discarded for a much more creepier possible romance between Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl.
Just like the first film however, there is a single saving grace, and that individual is The Motherf**ker! Christopher Mintz-Plasse has made up his early career by playing these geeks who long to be cool, and it’s safe to say that his performance here tops anything he has done previously. That is because unlike his past characters, he is given full liberty to chew each and everyone of his scenes up as much as possible. Sure, there isn’t much character growth, but as far as villains go, he does just fine (besides, do we really need ALL the main characters doing some soul searching?).
He owns the film from the moment he discovers his new identity to when he forms his elite squad of psychopaths, comprised of members with such colorful (and politically incorrect) names such as Black Death (Daniel Kaluuya), Genghis Carnage (Tom Wu), The Tumor (Andy Nyman) and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina), lovingly called The Toxic Mega Cunts. The comedy for the entire movie is derived from him and his team of ruthless killers which supports that dreaded superhero cliche, where the villains are more interesting than the heroes.
His self discoveries about who he is and what he is meant to do are as hilarious as it is pointless, with part of the joke being how he is constantly reminded by his bodyguard (John Leguizamo) that he really shouldn’t be doing any of this. He is a kid in a candy shop, but instead of buying the candy, he wants to destroy it. The outcast teen geek has rarely been captured to this extreme and it works perfectly against the more noble heroes that have no idea how to stop his adolescent tyranny.
Another mixed bag is the action and effects work of the film. While the action is filmed in a way where the audience can (thankfully) comprehend what is going on, it isn’t nearly as exciting as it was in the first film simply because there usually isn’t anything at stake, the final confrontation not withstanding. A scene later on when Hit-Girl is forced to rescue Kick-Ass could have (and should have) been thrilling, but it is hampered by some horrendous green screen work that even the first (independently financed) film was never plagued with.
Kick-Ass 2 is a mixed bag overall though. It’s a sequel that we really didn’t need, but there was potential there to explore these characters and this world more. However, the filmmakers approached it like they were embarrassed by the visceral glee the first film took in its excessive violence and its potty mouthed hero (saddling Hit-Girl with a swear jar just isn’t cool at all). Some aspects of it work, like The Motherf**ker’s hilarious rise to power and the Justice Forever team, but they overshadow what worked so well in the first film, its reckless abandon and its ability to put these real world superheroes into dangerous real world situations.
If you are a fan of the original film and had envisioned seeing Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl going on further adventures fighting crime and growing together, sadly this sequel has no interest in exploring those possibilities with you. Instead it wants Hit-Girl to go to school and learn to be nice and Kick-Ass to (still) worry about his responsibilities while other much less interesting characters take up their time on screen. When we do eventually get to see them team up and fight side by side again at the end, it is sadly too little too late. This is one sequel that deserves to get its own ass kicked.