Movie Review: 'Kick-Ass 2' (2013)

In 2010 audiences were treated to the wickedly dark and satirical ‘Kick-Ass’. Three years later, Jeff Wadlow has taken over directing duties from Matthew Vaughn for the sequel. Based on the graphic novels written by Mark Miller; ‘Kick-Ass 2’ picks up rather briefly after the last film. Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has put down his suit, and Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is trying to integrate into life as a normal girl.

Soon though, Kick-Ass, real name Dave Lizewski, is eager to join up with the people he’s inspired to take up his hero cause. Those citizens being led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) are faced with the growing army of Chris D’Amico, Red Mist in the previous film and now super villain, The MF’er or “mofo” (trying to keep it clean).

So that is the set-up for the film. Well, it all gets down to one question, and it has an answer that is normally consistent. Is it better or equal to the first? No. Where the first "Kick Ass" went gang-busters with boundary breaking antics, and “did they just say that?” dialogue shockers, "Kick-Ass 2" comes nowhere close. Its biggest sin is being formulaic.

If you are familiar with superhero canon, you can predict the plot. That was not the case with the first film. It felt dangerous, exciting, like anything could happen. It let you know that it wasn’t your average comic book movie.

In "Kick-Ass 2" all the old school trappings are replayed on an endless loop. Where the original, nailed its commentary on the current youth culture crisis, "Kick-Ass 2" doesn't say anything relevant.

Instead, it tries to play the part, by name-dropping Twitter ad nauseam. Quite frankly, "Kick-Ass 2" plays it safe. It seems to have its tongue tied, trying not to offend the senses of whoever had hurt feelings from the first outing.

As one who has never enjoyed the “go-go Power Rangers” antics of superhero-dom, this movie steps all too willingly into that territory, everyone is now a superhero in the "Kick-Ass" universe. There is no juxtaposition, there is nothing setting Dave apart, or making him special.

Unlike the original "Kick-Ass," he never really saves anybody, and street clothes Dave, who was so lovable in the first flick, is practically non-existent. The socially awkward nerd with outsider friends, dreaming of the unattainable girl at school is nowhere to be seen.

Dave is now a "player," as the sweet romance that was cemented in the first; is tossed away within minutes. Dave as the loving son is also M.I.A. as he is now a moody and smart-alecky teenager, like every other movie based around teens. Where is the real Dave?

As for Hit-Girl aka Mindy Macready, there are some great comedic moments between her, and her guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut). However, that is disrupted by an unnecessary ‘Mean Girls’ send-up.

To be perfectly frank there is too much Hit-Girl in this movie. If they wanted to make a Hit Girl spin-off, great, but this movie is called ‘Kick-Ass 2’. She is not the titular character. Dave/Kick-Ass is an interesting enough character to solely carry the film.

While the surrounding script, over the top explosions, and gross-out humor (must we have someone vomit in every movie now?) subtract from "Kick-Ass 2," the performances make up for most of it.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, without question, gives a dedicated turn in the role, and it pays off with a strong performance. While Dave is written in a less than likable way, you cannot dismiss him because Taylor-Johnson still manages to imbue him with that charming innocence that worked so effectively in the previous film.

In lesser hands, Dave would be perceived as a sniveling fool, and it says a lot that Taylor-Johnson’s performance does not make Dave come off that way. Not to mention the physical work he clearly put into the role, a physical transformation that sadly, was only given two quick shots, after what probably required many months of preparation. 

Chloe Grace Moretz definitely brings the old Hit-Girl back with some more mature nuances. Moretz still manages to make Mindy tough, although there a few more shades of emotional vulnerability this time, which nicely rounds out her characterization, bringing Mindy into womanhood.

Moretz manages to infuse more femininity into the role than was expected. Her role in "Kick-Ass 2" is also more challenging than the first. In "Kick-Ass 2," she has to play the dual roles of Mindy and Hit-Girl, where she had previously only played the latter, and she succeeds.

Elsewhere, Jim Carrey gives one of the finest performances of his acting career as Colonel Stars and Stripes. Carrey has always been a great actor (i.e ‘The Majestic’). The thing is, with an actor who stands out as much as Carrey; it has been difficult to be completely lost in his performances.

In "Kick-Ass 2," that all changes for the better. Carrey demonstrates a talent for completely disappearing into his character. There isn’t a shred of Carrey to be found in "Kick-Ass 2." His voice, physicality, walk and overall expressions are completely foreign. It’s a turn that is really marvelous to behold. 

Christopher Mintz-Plasse delivers again as the petulant Chris D’Amico; sadly the script fails him for the most part. The driving force of his story arc isn’t emphasized enough, which leads to his over-zealousness, coming across cartoonish, where it was previously flamboyant.

The supporting cast does a good job as well. There are just too many members of the supporting cast. It gets ridiculous. Garrett M. Brown is heartfelt as Dave's dad, and Morris Chestnut is fabulous as the straight man/guardian of the over-the-top, Mindy.

Perhaps, hopes were too high given the stupendous standards of the first "Kick-Ass," but even if you haven’t seen the original; "Kick-Ass 2" will leave you feeling a bit beat up. Rating: 6.5/10

Check out what Eclectic Pop thought of the first film: