KICK-ASS 2 is a pretty solid black comic superhero movie, but the title is wrong. Kick-Ass 2 should really be called Hit-Girl. If the first film was the titular not-quite-hero’s journey, then the sequel is definitely more geared towards telling the tale of his more than a little terrifying teen killing machine teammate.
A few years on from his origin story and Dave Lizewski’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) vigilantism is inspiring a succession of disturbed individuals to don homemade costumes and fight crime. Meanwhile, Mindy Macready (Chlöe Grace Moretz) is having an identity crisis and a vengeful Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) casts aside his hero ties to become the world’s first supervillain.
The film, as a direct follow-on to the first KICK-ASS delivers exactly what you’d expect – more swearing, brutality and amateur heroics – but it has lost its satirical edge. The bigger the story gets, with teams of amateur heroes and villains in conflict, the more the film becomes the very thing being made fun of a few years ago. There’s a couple of pretty big set pieces that wouldn’t look out of place in a Marvel film if not for the lack of polish that comes from being an independent British/American collaboration.
Where seeing Kick-Ass becoming a fully-fledged superhero isn’t as compelling as it might be, the same cannot be said for the continuation of Hit-Girl’s story. As already mentioned, this is her film really. She’s trapped between identities, trying to fit in and be a normal teenager, but knowing she’ll never escape her late father’s shadow as the first real superhero. The film has more fun with parodying high school teen flicks than anything comic book-related, and watching Mindy exact seriously disgusting but hilarious revenge on the cool girls is a sight to behold.
The film is very funny. Even without Jane Goldman’s return as screenwriter, there’s plenty of big laughs and a wry, knowing smile about the whole affair. There’s a gag about Mindy’s foul mouth that tributes a certain big shark movie, a great joke that questions the logic of keeping a shark in a tank in a supervillain lair (what is it with sharks in this film?) and extreme gross out stuff with genitals and bodily fluids (and solids). The humour marries the low-key and witty with the extreme and low-brow, and does it incredibly well.
As Mindy is the main focus of the story, Chloë Grace Moretz is allowed to show her range as a young actor, snapping from vulnerable to vicious, from mourning to murderous, from sweetness and light to sweary sinner in the blink of an eye. It’s good to see the complexities and layers of her troubled character, and she is consistently more compelling than Taylor-Johnson’s Dave/Kick-Ass. He’s still good in the role, but doesn’t really get much to do in his second outing than he did in the first (except bulk up a little bit).
Christopher Mintz-Plasse makes for a foul but amusingly inept villain, and though Chris D’Amico is undoubtedly his father’s son, he’ll never be as terrifying as his late mobster dad (Mark Strong in the first film) or his banged-up uncle (a brief, chilling turn from Iain Glen). Luckily, he doesn’t need to be imposing when he has the towering terminator woman Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) on his side. Opposing the bad guys is a motley crew of amateur heroes with a varying quality of tragic backstory led by Born-Again thug Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Despite receiving third-billing in all the marketing, Carrey is only in the film for a couple of scenes, and you do wonder whether his role was cut down following his refusal to promote the film after a crisis of conscience. It’s also a shame that Dave’s slow friend Todd and Mindy’s godfather Marcus had to be recast for the sequel, especially since both have a bit more to do this time round.
If you liked the first Kick-Ass, then you should get something out of the sequel. It might be missing the verve that Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman brought the first film, as well as lacking the Nicolas Cage’s scene-stealing turn (Carrey is no replacement) and at times it veers a little close to the same films that it’s supposed to be aping. But it’s still extremely entertaining, wickedly funny, and with an emotionally engaging character arc in the exploration of who Hit-Girl is. Maybe Kick-Ass should be the focus again next time, as this is his franchise. You do have to ask, though – where can it go from here? After the second chapter, there’s another pretty happy ending, but surely this story can only end in tears? SSP