Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes, any fans in Fresno and all over the world knows that, but some of those shapes and sizes appeal to others and and fail to appeal to others. For this examiner, Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s Kick-Ass character borders on crossing that line.
When this examiner reviewed the first Kick-Ass film, back in 2010, the first year that I began doing these reviews, I was surprisingly critical of it for how utterly different and unapologetic it was with its realistic tone, teen sex comedy brand of humor, and very over-the-top level of violence, but feeling the it definitely worked in that parody sort of way. I did not hate the film, but by the end of that review I was not able to recommend it to parents looking for something to show their kids...as if the title left them with any doubt about that. Rereading that review, and having not seen the film again in a long time, I am surprised at how prudish I sounded back then, especially in the wake of so many other over-the-top action film that I came out enjoying better. But now, with the release of the sequel, I may find myself getting back into that familiar mindset once again.
Kick-Ass 2, based on the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. as well as their spin-off comic Hit-Girl, picks up two years after the end of the first film where Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has retired from being the superhero Kick-Ass, while Mindy Macready (played by Chloë Grace Moretz) is entering her freshmen year of high school and, at the request of her new guardian, retires from being the vigilante Hit-Girl. But Dave starts finding his normal life boring and decides to go ahead and become a crime fighter once again, only this time, sick and tired of being constantly outclassed in a fight and nearly dying, he goes to Mindy for training.
What Dave also discovers is that while Kick-Ass was around the first time, he inspired numerous others to don costumes of their own and take to the streets, and so Kick-Ass finds himself invited to join a vigilante group called Justice Forever, led by a former mob enforcer turned superhero named Colonel Stars and Stripes (played by Jim Carrey). This new team of "heroes" sets out to do some good on their own terms, but they may be in completely over their heads as an old face from Dave's past returns seeking revenge.
Still obsessed with destroying Kick-Ass for killing his father, Chris D'Amico (played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse) decides to leave behind his former Red Mist identity and become the world's first supervillain, the Mother Fucker. Gathering an army of psychopaths and dressing them up in costumes as well, this dangerous and deranged young villain sets out to turn Kick-Ass's life into a living hell, starting with his new team, and them later his loved ones. Can Dave and Mindy rise to the challenge and defeat this foes they unwittingly created? Or will the legacy of real-life superheroes begin and end with them?
Just like with my review of the first film, this examiner finds himself in an editorially awkward position writing this review. I am forced to used a lot of profanity in this review simply because of the name of the title character, which I guess the editors on the site understood back when I did that review and therefore never took it down. But this time the problem is even more awkward because I have a villain whose name is even more offensively profane than the hero's name. If anyone reading this is therefore offended by the language, please understand that this is all out of editorial necessity, and that I do apologize.
The film has come under controversy recently do to Jim Carrey's decision to stop promoting the film in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. While I think his performance on screen shows that he is having a lot of fun in the role, I can see why where his opinion come from because this film is a gory as I remember the first one. Dave is constantly getting the crud beaten out of him, Hit-Girl is slashing away at people all over the place, all of that is established from the first film. But this time we also have a mobster getting bit in the testicles by a dog, two policemen killed when a villain throws an lawnmower through the windshield of their car, and even a guy getting eaten off screen by a shark. A lot like the first film, the violence here is about as over-the-top as I can imagine it getting without becoming a Punisher film.
Having said all of that, there are other times where the film shows a sympathetic side. The subplot with Mindy trying to quit being Hit-Girl and fit in at high school, where she is bullied relentlessly, is probably the most interesting part of the film. There is also a tragic death of a minor character who gets deeper range in this film that is very effective, showing us the real world consequences that will come from this vigilante lifestyle and why no person in real life should ever consider it, reminding me of Big Daddy's death in the first film and of how far evil will go to get back at those it despises.
But, when I reviewed the first film, I called it the American Pie of comic book movies for its sexual humor and gratuitousness, that comes back in full force this time. The villain, who cannot be older than 18, is shown in a hot tub with two naked women, Kick-Ass is blatantly having a sexual relationship with fellow superhero Night Bitch, the masturbation jokes come back from last time, high school kids throw around sexual slang and brag about sexual relationships without a second thought, the growing relationship between Dave and Mindy leads the kids at their school to make to inevitable misinterpreted pedophilia jokes, etc. The bullies that tease Mindy at school may be the most over-the-top bitchy teens I have ever seen, right down to their attitude, mannerisms, obsession with teen idols, and demoralizing Mindy by lying about her being invited to a party (which the lead bully only does as payback for doing better than her at cheer leading tryouts). This lead to Mindy getting perhaps the most bizarre form of revenge I have ever seen in one of these kinds of films, and while it is indeed very funny, it is the kind of thing I would expect from (I hate to say it) a Friedberg and Seltzer parody than a superhero film.
I really don't know why I always come off as a prude when I review these films, but while I can appreciate what they are trying to do and I think the Hit-Girl character steals the show whenever she is on screen, there is something about he Kick-Ass franchise that always holds me back in hindsight. Gratuitous violence can work in a superhero film, but its not like Watchmen, where as over-the-top as it is it is still played straight and used for drama. Here, it tries to balance that with all this teen sex comedy humor that just seems awkward somehow.
But, again, like the first film, I don't hate it despite all of my complaining. When the film is funny, it generally is funny; hell, that revenge scene I mentioned before was so unexpected that I found myself laughing even in spite of its poor taste. There is a point they are trying to make with all of this gory violence, especially in the tragic death I mentioned earlier. Like the first film, it satirizes the superhero idea while simultaneously makes it clear why these characters are best left in the comics and movies and why nobody should ever get themselves into this kind of life.
The performances here are pretty okay for this ind of film. Aaron Johnson is once again a stereotypical wimpy as Dave Lizewski, a.k.a. Kick-Ass, but this time I appreciated the apparent added confidence that the character had after the events of the first film, which made it less embarrassing whenever he tries getting into a criminal's face. Christopher Mintz-Plasse goes from funny and insecure to completely over-the-top insane as Chris D'Amico, a.k.a. the Mother Fucker. He comes across almost as Stiffler if he had come into a lot of money and totally lost his mind, fortunately, like Mark Strong before him, his horrific actions do all the talking for him despite all of that. Jim Carrey, his desire to distance himself from the film not withstanding, is clearly having a lot of fun as Col. Stars and Stripes, playing a old, hard-nosed and clearly deranged bad ass who nevertheless has some amount of morals (as evidenced by his resentment of anyone using the Lord's name in vain). It is a shame that his role was surprisingly minor in the film, because I would have liked to have seen more of him. But just like in the first film, Chloë Grace Moretz steals the show as Mindy Macready, a.k.a. Hit-Girl. Her arc in the film is the most interesting aspect of it and she slips back into the role like a hand in glove, plus, now that she is noticeably older, the creepiness of a minor living this kind of life isn't quite as bizarre as it was last time. Other actors in the film include Donald Faison as Doctor Gravity, Robert Emms as Insect Man, Lindy Booth as Night Bitch, Daniel Kaluuya as Black Death, Clark Duke as Marty Eisenberg, a.k.a. Battle Guy, Augustus Prew as Todd Haynes, a.k.a. Ass-Kicker, Olga Kurkulina as Mother Russia, Andy Nyman as The Tumor, Steven Mackintosh & Monica Dolan as Remembering Tommy, John Leguizamo as Javier, Iain Glen as Uncle Ralph D'Amico, Enzo Cilenti as Lou, Morris Chestnut as Sergeant Marcus Williams, Yancy Butler as Angie D'Amico, and Lyndsy Fonseca as Katie Deauxma.
Overall, Kick-Ass 2 is a much bigger and possibly deep film than the original, but despite this examiner's desire not to come off a prudish as he did in that review, hindsight and analysis of the film resulted in him doing just that. It is not something I can recommend parents take children to go see, but teenagers and young adult, or folks that just want something unconventional and extreme in a superhero film might enjoy it. I think their is just barely enough spectacle and emotion here that I can give it a very low three stars, but for the most part I say wait until the pay-per-view or Redbox release for this one.