Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Written by: Jeff Wadlow based on the comic book by Mark Millar & John Romita Jr.
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass), Chloë Grace Moretz (Mindy Macready / Hit-Girl), Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Chris D'Amico / The Motherfucker), Jim Carrey (Colonel Stars and Stripes), Lindy Booth (Night Bitch), Morris Chestnut (Detective Marcus Williams), Claudia Lee (Brooke), Clark Duke (Marty / Battle Guy), Augustus Prew (Todd / Ass Kicker), Donald Faison (Dr. Gravity), Garrett M. Brown (Mr. Lizewski), Yancy Butler (Mrs. D'Amico), John Leguizamo (Javier), Daniel Kaluuya (Black Death), Andy Nyman (The Tumor), Tom Wu (Genghis Carnage), Olga Kurkulina (Mother Russia), Iain Glen (Uncle Ralph).
Matthew Vaughn’s original Kick Ass (2010) was essentially a high wire act where everything went just right. It was a movie that asked the question of what would happen if anyone really tried to be a superhero – and came up with what is probably close to the right answer – they’d either get the crap kicked out them, like what happened to the title character more often than not, or else they’re batshit insane, like Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), who ended up getting himself killed, but only after forever warping his teenage daughter Mindy aka Hit Girl (played in the film’s best performance by Chloe Grace Mortez). In order for the film to work, you have to be careful you go far enough with the violence that it seems real, but not so far that it essentially becomes another superhero movie. Too far in the previous direction, and you end up with a movie like the little seen (and fairly awful) Super, where Rainn Wilson walked around hitting people in the head with a wrench. Too far in the later, and you’ve lost the “real” aspect that separated your movie from the rest of the superhero movies in the first place. Personally, I thought Vaughn’s original film pretty much nailed this balance. Unfortunately the sequel – directed by Jeff Wadlow – doesn’t come close.
The movie takes place not long after the first one ended. Dave Lizewski aka Kick Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has given up his crime fighting ways, but is now just another bored high school senior. Mindy Macready aka Hit-Girl is now living with her father’s old partner (Morris Chesnut) who knows her secret, but wants her to give it up as well – although she doesn’t want to. Meanwhile the former Red Mist, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is seething with anger over his father’s death at the hands of Kick-Ass, and after his mother dies as well, decides to become the world’s first super villain – uninventively named The Motherfucker. He’s rich, and has mob connections, so he assembles a group of psychos to track down Kick Ass – who has joined forces with Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his ragtag group of “heroes”, after Hit-Girl decides to “go straight”. We know where this will lead.
There are a few – not many – things to like about Kick Ass 2. Even if he has distanced himself from the movie, Jim Carrey’s performance is actually very good. He may not quite replace what was lost with Nicolas Cage not being in this movie, but he comes close – once again creating a character who is demented and insane, but is apparently “one of the good guys”. Even better is Chloe Grace Mortez, who like the original movie, once again delivers the film’s best performance – this time as she tries to navigate something scary then crack dens – high school – and in particular a group of “mean girls”. I liked this subplot – almost a movie inside a movie – more than the rest of the film, that is until it comes to a disgusting end. If nothing else, these scenes show that Mortez should make a fine Carrie when the remake comes out this October.
The rest of the movie however just doesn’t work. Wadlow decides to take Kick Ass 2 more over the top than the previous film, and the stylistic violence doesn’t fit in with what the supposed theme of the movie is – that this is the real world, not a comic book, so there are real world consequences to the characters actions. I have no idea how many times this is mentioned in the movie (a dozen maybe?) – but the point is completely undermined by the over the top gross out gags, and in particular the comic book style violence – in particular a scene where a character known as Mother Russia – kills 10 cops in a matter of minutes – and few seem to blink an eye.
Right before that scene is another one where The Motherfucker tracks down Night Bitch (and to think some think the movie is sexist) – a hero in the same group as Kick Ass, and his fuck buddy, and decides he’s going to rape her – only to not be able to perform. This scene I had a real problem with. The writer of the comic book has recently (and correctly) been criticized for his use of rape in his comics, and his attitude towards it. He cannot be blamed for this scene – he didn’t write the screenplay after all – but I was uncomfortable watching it, as it went from the horrific specter or rape – which the Motherfucker doesn’t even see as a crime against Night Bitch, but against Kick Ass – to a comedic one the second he cannot get it up. I have never been comfortable with rape scenes in movies – the few who manage to capture the crime in its horrific details, yet are not exploitive are few and far between – but certainly this one crosses a line.
But that scene is a microcosm of the movie as a whole. The movie wants to be taken at least somewhat seriously – to shock and disturb the audience – but also be a fun comic book movie. Vaughn’s film managed that trick wonderfully well. But without him in the director’s chair, the sequel veers wildly off course.