Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Grace Moretz, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, Clark Duke, Lindy Booth, and Jim Carrey
Written By: Jeff Wadlow (based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr.)
Directed By: Jeff Wadlow
Let’s get right down to it. How does Kick-Ass 2 compare to the original? Unfortunately, it isn’t nearly as good. That’s not say it’s bad either. Kick-Ass 2 still delivers a lot of cartoonish ultra-violence and comedic vulgarity, but it all feels a bit staler this time around. The first Kick-Ass, released in 2010, was one of the most entertaining and original films of that year. Making a sequel on par, if not better, than the first would be no easy feat. Its proved to be an unattainable one. As a big fan of the first installment, I was really rooting for this movie but there was just something missing. Kick-Ass 2 is by no means a complete failure and it certainly has its charms, but it’s a disappointing follow-up nonetheless.
Part of the problem is in losing original writer/director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, X-Men: First Class), who infused a snazzy visual style which new writer/director Jeff Wadlow doesn’t reach. Vaughn remains onboard as a producer along with Brad Pitt. Pitt would have made a great Big Daddy, the patriarchal madman played by Nicolas Cage in the original. He also could have fit right in as Colonel Stars and Stripes, the ex-mafia member turned masked vigilante played by Jim Carrey in this one. But I suppose Pitt will slum it down enough to produce these movies, just not appear in them. Carrey withdrew his support from this film after a change in heart over its depiction of gratuitous violence. Surprisingly, Carrey’s appearance is more of an extended cameo than it is a supporting role, as he has maybe ten minutes of screen time, tops.
After the events of the first film, self-made superhero Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has inspired average citizens to form a team called Justice Forever, in which everyday people don masks and alter-egos to fight crime. The group is led by the aforementioned Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), with the other members including the parents of a missing boy, a bullied gay teenager, a physics professor known as Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), a girl named Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), who is seeking vengeance for the murder of her sister, and of course good ol’ Kick-Ass. Carrey is quite good in the few scenes he’s in. He plays the character straight, almost coming off like a cousin of Mickey Rourke’s Marv in Sin City.
For every hero, we need a villain, and so rich kid Chris D’Amico aka Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is assembling an evil army of his own. Only, Red Mist was his persona back in the first film when he was fighting crime. Now that he’s committing crime, he goes by The Motherf**ker, with his super-villain costume made up of leather S&M gear that belonged to his mother. His evil “Alfred” as Chris calls him, is Javier (John Leguizamo), to which Javier responds “Are you calling me you’re butler?” With unlimited funds to pay their recruits, the two bring in a potpourri of thugs including a female bodybuilder named Mother Russia, and an ex-yakuza called Genghis Carnage.
Meanwhile, Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is a high school freshman being looked after by her late father’s former police partner Marcus (Morris Chestnut). Marcus doesn’t approve of 15-year-old Mindy’s alternative lifestyle of slaughtering gangsters. He wants her to behave like a normal teenage girl. Only, the audience does approve of her behavior, and so after initially agreeing with Marcus’s request, she’ll become Hit-Girl again in no time. Before that though, Moretz’s subplot sees her getting lured in and eventually deceived by the cool kids in school. This section of the film plays like a parody of Mean Girls, albeit an edgy R-rated one. Hit-Girl’s serving of comeuppance to the popular kids features a gross-out gag so absurd, you can’t help but revel in the stupidity of it.
As with the first film, Moretz’s Hit-Girl is the highlight here. But now a teenager, her obscenity spewing pint-sized crime fighting character doesn’t have the same impact as it did in the first film when she was only twelve. Fifteen’s no adult by any means, but nothing in this movie comes close to the shocking moment in the first film when Moretz called a group of murderous thugs “c*nts”, then preceded to take them out one by one. She still gets plenty of material to work with here and is probably the only performer perfectly suited for her role. Taylor-Johnson is fine, but nothing special as Kick-Ass. Mintz-Plasse hams it up as The MF’er, but his performance is often off-putting and odd, especially when you consider he’s the main villain. He probably would’ve been better as the sidekick to Leguizamo’s Javier, as opposed to the other way around.
While most sequels go bigger and up the stakes, aside from adding a plethora of supporting superhero characters, part two actually feels smaller (the budget was $2 million less than part one). The one thing that does feel amped up is the surrealism of it all, but this second installment is surprisingly light on action and more of a comedy than the original. There are some structural issues in the first half as the filmmaker’s attempt to cram in three separate storylines, Kick-Ass’s, Hit-Girls’, and The MF’s, each of whom have their own subplots. These jumps make for tonal confusion as The MF’s scenes often feature darkly sadistic violence, while Hit-Girl’s feature a satirical sendup of high school teen comedies. While the first film also deviated between a dark and light mood, for whatever reason it works less seamlessly here.
Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t really hit its stride and deliver unabashed fun until the final act, something that the original was able to do throughout its entirety. It’s doubtful that fans of the first film will find this sequel as satisfying, and highly doubtful anyone would actually think it’s better. That being said, Kick-Ass 2 is still crudely entertaining in its own right and if you did enjoy the first film, there’s plenty to like here as well. The first movie was witty, juvenile, violent, shocking, funny, and exciting. At times Kick-Ass 2 is also all of these things, just on a lesser scale.