Directed by Jeff Wadlow.
Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, John Leguizamo, Morris Chestnut, Clark Duke, Claudia Lee, Lyndsy Fonseca, Robert Emms, Lindy Booth, Daniel Kaluuya, Andy Nyman and Olga Kurkulina.
The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.
Kick-Ass 2 sees Dave and Mindy, our Dynamic Duo, some time after the events of the first film. Mindy is struggling to fit in with the popular girls at school, and Dave is trying to balance his personal life with his desire to once again don the mask and fight crime as his vigilante alter-ego. Meanwhile Red Mist is plotting to take revenge on Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass for killing his mob-boss dad at the end of the first movie.
The film’s first twenty minutes are admittedly weak. We are treated to to-ing and fro-ing of time frames, with the opening scene taken from a point somewhere in the middle of the first act of the film (the same scene being used in most of the commercials). Although I’m sure he didn’t have them in mind when writing, Wadlow’s execution of this kind of exposition reminds me of writers from the first half of the twentieth century, particularly Plath and Fitzgerald. The technique is an echo of similar exposition seen in the first movie, one of many examples of how Wadlow attempts to blend the two seamlessly. He does it very well; you can barely tell that he didn’t direct the first one.
The thing that made the first Kick-Ass movie so unique is that it subtly blended conventions of the superhero genre with various in-jokes and nods to bygone films and tropes. This film does exactly the same. Wadlow knows his audience very well, and he does not insult them by assuming their ignorance. Wadlow brings his unique outlook and knowledge of the genre to Kick-Ass 2, an already monumental task considering that he is directing both a sequel and an adaptation of works that are not his own, and that’s before you account for the fans of this fast-growing multimedia franchise.
Kick-Ass 2 focuses keenly on the development of the central characters, who we met in the first movie. Dave and Mindy are stumbling through high school, and Chris D’Amico AKA Red Mist is setting out to get revenge on the two, after they blew his dad up with a bazooka. He undergoes a moral and physical evolution in the first half of the film, assembling a team of hardcore criminals and becoming their leader, the Mother Fucker. Both dubiously named and dressed, Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s super-villain evolution is depicted with comedic undertones on screen. At first he is someone to be laughed at, with him mistaking his mother’s bondage gear as a potential costume. But as the film progresses, we see the Mother Fucker turn into something truly disturbing and evil.
The Mother Fucker’s violent acts in this film are central to the motivations of our hero, Kick-Ass. Unfortunately the excessive violence depicted, both in the previous and this one have been the subject of much controversy. Jim Carrey has revoked support of the film entirely, despite playing a fairly prominent part as The Colonel, leader of the Justice Forever crimefighting gang. One must question why Carrey chose to take part in the film in the first place. The original movie and comics are just as gruesome as Kick-Ass 2. Jim Carrey knew what he was in for when he signed up. As John Leguizamo eloquently put it at SDCC last month, “I just don’t understand. When did you realize the movie was violent? I mean, didn’t you see the first one? Didn’t you read the script? I know you must have read the script! I don’t understand.”
Not that Carrey’s withdrawal of support will at all be detrimental to the success of the film. If anything, the controversy will certainly cause more ticket sales at the box office. Carrey’s ambivalence is also not a particular blow to the movie, due to his own performance within it. I suspect Carrey distanced himself from the project not because of concerns over Sandy Hook, but simply because his own performance was absolutely effing atrocious. Not only is Carrey sorely miscast in an ensemble of up-and-coming talent, throughout the movie he very obviously does not want to be there. He looks bored and half-arsed for the majority of his scenes; I was more invested in the pizza I ate last night than Jim Carrey was invested in Kick-Ass 2. His characterisation is loose and vague, and his actual performance is sub-par beside people like Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz. Supposedly the biggest comedic talent on the bill, Carrey offers precisely zero laughs and is generally a massive let-down. Meanwhile, Donald Faison, who one might say is in a similar position to Carrey as an established comedy actor amongst a host of newbies, fares extremely well as the slightly deluded but enthusiastic Dr. Gravity, another member of Justice Forever.
Whatever Carrey’s motivations for withdrawing support, there’s no denying that this film is violent and gross. Wadlow struggles to tread the line while incorporating both comedic and violent genres into Kick-Ass 2. Some moments are absolutely heart wrenching and beautifully constructed, like the utterly believable reaction of Dave to the death of his father, depicted by the surprisingly sensitive Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Elsewhere, the mixture is distasteful when the Mother Fucker attempts to rape one of Kick-Ass’s Justice Forever teammates, Night Bitch.
A moment which could demonstrate another facet to Red Mist’s corruption is ruined by a frankly awful attempt to lighten the subject matter. There are moments in this film where Wadlow attempts to repetitively make light of some of the worst cultural problems in modern society. One example is this rape scene, where the Motherfucker can’t get it up. I could almost forgive Wadlow for making a rape joke on account of creative freedom and characterisation blah blah blah, if the joke itself wasn’t so mind-numbingly godawful. This was the absolute lowest point of the film for me. And what’s worse is that it is skirted over in the wake of more important plot points. If you really must insist on making a rape joke, can you please at the very least make it mildly entertaining? Thanks.
Elsewhere, Mintz-Plasse’s character makes homophobic and racist comments, in a hopeless attempt at what I suppose is meant to be irony. It fails dramatically, and the result is an unfunny mess, where Wadlow leaves many an audience member feeling cheated and more than a little offended. Bad language does seem to work however when it’s used in conjunction with Chloë Grace Moretz. Moretz is slowly proving to the cinemagoing public that she is more than just a pretty young face. At just fifteen, she presents a more poignant and thought-provoking character than most adult actors could ever achieve.
Moretz’s performance as Hit-Girl is an improvement on last time. It’s very evident that Hit-Girl’s journey through high school and growing into a frustrated teenager is a mirror of Chloë’s own upbringing in the limelight. She offers a mature performance that only enhances Hit-Girl’s alienation from her peers and her ongoing struggle to find her own identity. Easily the standout performance of the film, Hit-Girl’s journey is far more explicit than Kick-Ass’; and her awareness of the consequences of her actions (“vigilantes don’t get a free pass”) only serve to add to her maturity and, in my opinion her superiority of character over Kick-Ass. The fact that she is able to best any male character in the film, and with ease, for me makes Hit-Girl something of a Riot Grrrl, a feminist icon, and an absolute BAMF that any young girl can look up to and say “I want to be like her”. Hit-Girl has the potential to be the next Lara Croft, certainly in terms of being a role model.
Kick-Ass 2 is not, by any stretch of the imagination, your average superhero movie. The best thing about this movie is that is doesn’t have an ego. It is so utterly self-deprecating and self-aware that it’s hard not to love it. There’s something about the homemade costumes, the fact that none of Justice Forever can really fight, but still win; the idea that anyone can go out and stand up to the bad guys. What makes this film a cut above similar movies is the believable, gritty reality of the characters in moments of tension, and the consequences that threaten them. Just like the first one, this film has moments of nail biting tension and moments where you also want to give Dave or Mindy a big hug. Meanwhile, in its simplicity it maintains a level of closeness with its audience that can’t be had with other, more fantastical superhero movies – and that for me is Kick-Ass 2’s greatest triumph.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★ ★