Busily adding outrageous ideas and incomplete action where most sequels are content to revisit familiar ground, Kick-Ass 2 is a garish, spirited excursion into pulpy pleasure. It's not a likeable film, as if that somehow matters, but you have to admire how it goes out of its way to tweak the audience's expectations while surreptitiously working in unforeseen angles. It also manages to break new ground in the depiction of projectile vomiting.
That is exactly what the comic-book movie needs. At the end of a movie season in which the likes of Man of Steel have finished making the superhero into a figure of stern struggle and the movies have been august and vast in their scale but lacking in simple humanity, the flawed excesses of Jeff Wadlow's movie get back to the basics of printed four-colour fantasy and irreverence.
|Screen Writer||Jeff Wadlow|
|Actors||Chloe Grace MoretzAaron Taylor-JohnsonJim CarreyChristopher Mintz-PlasseMorris Chestnut|
|OFLC rating||MA 15+|
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.
Having started an unlikely trend in 2010's Kick-Ass, when he naively put on a costume and tried to bring to life the moves of a masked vigilante, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has retired his often-battered persona of Kick-Ass. Now back at high school, along with Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz), the adolescent assassin impeccably trained by her loving, but insane, late father (Nicolas Cage) to fight crime under the name Hit-Girl, Dave watches as the trend goes viral and unlikely new crime fighters patrol the streets and circulate on social media.
One of the pluses in Kick-Ass 2 is how it focuses on a teenage boy who wants to emulate a teenage girl, as opposed to the usual reverse. The film suggests that adolescents are full of wanton energy that has to be focused on something, and there's a fantastic moment where Mindy - played with seditious aplomb by Moretz - discovers boy bands after years of gunning down gangsters.
Having renewed her pledge to her guardian - police detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) - that she was done whacking criminals as Hit-Girl, Mindy ventures into a remake of Mean Girls, where Rachel McAdams' Regina is now Claudia Lee's Brooke. This world, where she tries to wear an entirely different mask, is more confusing and emotionally cruel than what she's grown up with.
The picture is full of such deliberate homages and satirical nods. Dave, who yearns to be Kick-Ass even after Mindy steps back, falls in with Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and a group of outcast hopefuls whose association and iconography explicitly recalls Watchmen, the revered graphic novel about the rise and fall of masked superheroes.
Dave's nemesis, Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), hates Kick-Ass because he killed Chris' crime-boss dad, which is the same dynamic the Spider-Man series uses for Peter Parker and Harry Osborn, albeit without a bazooka as the weapon of choice. But Chris comically fails to cut it as a supervillain, so he uses his wealth to pay others to take care of business and instead practises his verbal put-downs.
''What did you think of my line?'' he asks his perplexed bodyguard, Javier (John Leguizamo). ''I wrote a whole bunch of them.'' That's the film's philosophy, too, juggling storylines and tacking back and forth between sentiment and salaciousness.
Kick-Ass 2 has a twisted energy, and from the first scene, in which a caustic Mindy teaches Dave about the importance of a bulletproof vest, it tries everything it can think of.
Carrey refused to promote Kick-Ass 2 because he felt it was too violent in the wake of American school shootings, but most of the violence here is actually cartoonish - and poorly composed to boot. In the first Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughn gave Hit-Girl's fight sequences a propulsive, whimsical grace that suited a pint-size protagonist, but Wadlow (2008's Never Back Down) can't match that.
His movie tries to suggest that being a masked superhero is a calling for the oppressed and ignored, but the only person who excels at it is Mindy, whose training was some twisted form of paternal love. Behind that noble facade is the notion that this is an American delusion, where you fix your problems by being someone else and (like Jay Gatsby) reinventing your life.
Virtually everything in Kick-Ass 2 is a put-on, and any controversy generated is obviously welcomed by the people behind it. If anything, the film doesn't go far enough. But it does have Chloe Grace Moretz, a slayer for a new generation whose salty line readings and knowing snarls before breaking out the nunchakus are a debilitating boot to the privates of teenage angst and Hollywood stereotypes.