Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
The original Kick-Ass and its unique blend of comic-book super-heroics and ultra-violence was such a breath of fresh air when it hit cinemas a few years back that any sequels were always going to struggle to match it. Perhaps inevitably, Kick-Ass 2 falls short of the original but it’s not without its smutty charm.
The main problem Kick-Ass 2 has always faced is that the comic book it’s based on simply isn’t very good. The original Kick-Ass series was a deeply cynical comic but it also had a novel concept and a sense of purpose with its skewed ‘real world’ take on superheroes. Kick-Ass the film managed to take what worked with the comic but improved upon what didn’t by replacing its sneering tone with a joyous sense of fun. Kick Ass 2 on the other hand was an entirely nasty, mean-spirited affair that gave on any pretence of subversion or subtext in an attempt to shock for the sake of being shocking. Thankfully Kick Ass 2 has lost much of this crass excess in its move to the big screen but it still feels like something of a caricature of the original film.
In the years since the first film, our hero (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has taken time out from amateur heroics to focus on being a regular guy. Unfortunately this is proving to be rather dull and he’s itching to get back into the not-so-super hero game. Tired of going it alone he decides to join a gang of equally ill-equipped crime fighters lead by a charismatic former mob enforcer and born again Christian calling himself Colonel Stars and Stripes and played rather wonderfully by Jim Carrey before he decided he no longer wanted to associate himself with a born again Christian who doesn’t like swearing. Meanwhile, Kick-Ass’ former accomplice Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is facing exactly the opposite problem: after years of fighting crime she’s decided it’s time to hang up her cape and try her hand at being a regular schoolgirl. Most of the film is split between these two subplots until things inevitably tie together for the climatic final act.
And things certainly do get climatic. Still desperate for revenge after the death of his mob boss father at the end of the first film, Chris D’Amico aka Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) reinvents himself as the world’s first super villain, adopts a new name too colourful to print here and begins assembling his own gang of costumed characters to take down Kick-Ass and his new friends.
The main problem with Kick-Ass 2 is that it simply fails to replicate the energy of its predecessor. Kick-Ass’ story feels like a retread of the original and while Hit Girl’s tale initially offers something different, it quickly devolves into a lazy high-school movie pastiche where new girls are treated like lepers by mean cheerleaders.
Another concern is that the original’s cheeky tone all too often slips into borderline offensive territory. Yes there is some colourful language and a smattering of gleeful violence but there is also an attempted rape sequence that is unfortunately played for laughs, something that would be a risky proposition in even the most capable hands.
Don’t let this criticism get you down though. If you liked the original Kick-Ass there is still much to enjoy here including a couple of brilliant action sequences and a handful of ‘OH MY GOD DID I REALLY JUST SEE THAT?!?’ moments you won’t soon forget.
Kick-Ass 2 isn’t a bad film and it’s certainly not the purveyor of moral decay some critics would have you believe. It has its tasteless moments, sure, but it also has flashes of inspiration and even at its worst it is crucially never dull. Unfortunately it’s not always that fun either.