When Kick-Ass hit cinemas in the spring of 2010, it stood out as a fresh and blistering alternative to the CGI-laden superhero blockbusters that infiltrated the box office landscape. Owing more to Quentin Tarantino than Stan Lee, Matthew Vaughn’s film was bold, irreverent, and even a bit too clever for its own good. That it attracted controversy for its vivid violence and perceived lack of moral compass only added to its repertoire. More than anything, it was just bloody good fun with a capital F.
Kick-Ass 2 retains many of the elements that made the original a blast – the irreverent tone, the self-awareness, the colorful language, as well as the comic-book violence. But what it lacks is the wit, inventiveness and most of all, the first film’s element of surprise. While there’s still fun to be had, with those elements gone, it’s just another predictable comic-book movie that wastes too much time on unnecessary characters and half-baked subplots masquerading as character development.
After the events of the first film, Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has become a local celebrity, inspiring 100s of wannabe costume vigilantes to become crime-fighters. But he’s not content on fighting alone. He wants a partner – someone who’ll have his back. A stint with Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), although fruitful, ends prematurely after she’s forced into retirement by her guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut), an old friend of her deceased father.
With Hit Girl grounded and forced to be a normal teenager, Dave looks to the internet for other costumed heroes. His search leads him to Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), a spunky fellow who in turn, invites him to join a team of vigilantes called “Justice Forever.” Led by a born-again Christian, former mafia henchman named Col. Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey in a spirited performance that is let-down by the hollow, character-anemic script), Justice Forever soon gains prominence in the city thanks to their brutal methods of leveling justice on organized crime.
Their success soon attracts the attention of Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who is still looking to enact revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his father at the end of the first film. Since he’s too much of a baby to fight, Chris decides that money is his power – sort-of like an evil Batman – refashions himself as The M*F*er, and hires a team of ex-cons, among them a 6” 200-lb female ex-KGB agent named “Mother Russia,” to do his bidding. Clearly, subtlety isn’t his strength.
Unfortunately, being a convincing villain isn’t his strength either. Mintz-Plasse, who has played as assortment of comedic oddballs in movies as varied as Superbad to this summer’s already-underrated To Do List is a gifted comedian. But playing a twisted creep who wouldn’t think twice before sexually assaulting someone isn’t his forte. While he was an inspired choice to play the bored and frustrated rich kid in the first film, the script by writer-director Jeff Wadlow only succeeds in making him look like a one-note baby. Morever, Wadlow, who picks up the reigns from Vaughn (who retains producer credit), simply doesn’t have the finesse or creative chops of his predecessor, which gives the film the stench of a direct-to-DVD movie.
At least Moretz, clearly the biggest star to come out of the first film, is still an exciting presence. Although some of the novelty of watching a child spew obscenities and dismember gangsters has waned, she still lights up the film. That is, whenever she’s on-screen which is not much. And that’s the biggest problem of the picture – it significantly cuts Hit Girl, the most galvanizing character of the series, out of her costume for most of its running time.
Instead of watching her beat the crap out of villains, we’re forced to watch her go through a silly high school sub-plot in which she has to join a Mean Girls clique, get humiliated, and then eventually beat them at their own game. It’s a testament to Moretz that as generic as these scenes are, they’re infinitely more enjoyable to watch than the sub-plots with Kick-Ass, the rest of the Justice Forever team, and Mintz-Plasse’s grating bad guy. That’s a problem when your movie is called Kick-Ass. Although the film as a whole is relatively enjoyable and superior when compared to other summer sequels like Red 2, Grown Ups 2, The Wolverine, and The Hangover Part III, it’s evident that there wasn’t any reason for it to be green-lit in the first place.