“You don’t have to be a bad-ass to be a superhero. You just have to be brave.”
Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass (yes, yes, based on the comic book by Mark Millar) was a fresh take, not just on the superhero genre, but also on the vigilante film, becoming the heir apparent to both Batman and Death Wish. Following the adventures of Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, Big Daddy, and Red Mist, the film was a shockingly violent deconstruction of the idea of superheroes in a world without superpowers are not available to combat the heavily armed bad guys. Three years later, it’s sequel time, and Kick-Ass 2 brings enough new cards to the table to compensate for the parts of the film which rehash the original.
Dave and Mindy, erstwhile Kick-Ass and Hit Girl, respectively, are both in high school, their life of vigilantism behind them. Dave wants to dive back into the game, while Hit Girl is torn between fitting in with the girls in her clique and her ability to kick obscene amounts of butt. Along the way, they cross paths with a team of masked heroes led by a nearly unrecognizable Jim Carrey. Meanwhile, Kick-Ass’s traitorous friend, Red Mist, has adopted a new, R-rated, moniker, and is putting together a team of super villains in an attempt to assert his own masculinity. Drama, hilarity, and rock and roll ensue.
Kick-Ass 2 stumbles around at times, but ultimately succeeds. Though Matthew Vaughn stepped down as director (he gets his own title card in the beginning, though), Jeff Wadlow (who also wrote the screenplay) does a fine job taking over for him, though he doesn’t strive for a hugely different style or a larger scope, instead focusing on the established characters and following up on the first film. It’s a more intimate approach than most sequels, as the characters are well-written and their arcs are clear; Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s character is not a one-dimensional version of The Joker, but a fully realized figure, tragic and evil; Chloe Grace Moretz is an excellent female teen protagonist. Her scenes in high school, with shades of Mean Girls, are among the best in the film, and the battles she fights there aren’t the type she can solve with butterfly knives and samurai swords; on the other hand, if there’s a weak link in the cast, it’s Kick-Ass himself, particularly in the early parts of the film, in which he basically repeats his arc from the first film, and later on, his arc is mostly derived from Hit Girl and Big Daddy of the first film. Nevertheless, everything manages to come together just in time for for the final battle.
“Maybe she’s a dyke.”
“Maybe I’ll jam my foot up your snatch.”
If there’s a weakness to be found which permeates the whole movie, it’s the general pacing: the middle of the film drags its feet quite a bit. Despite the strong character arcs, they tend to wrap themselves up rather quickly, leaving odd downtimes whilst waiting for the next plot point to present itself. The main plot is also pretty thin. Kick-Ass meets a team of heroes while the ex-Red Mist forms a team of villains. As for the core, the A-Plot, that’s pretty much it. There are enough subplots and excellent character moments to hold the rest of the running time, but a little more meat on its bones would surely have helped.
Like the first film, Kick-Ass 2 brings that delicious mix of comedy, bloody action/violence, and hard-edged drama. The freshness factor is diminished somewhat, but the movie manages to up the ante just enough to avoid feeling redundant, a lifeless retread. The action hits as hard as ever, whether of the “There’s a dog on your balls!” variety or a brutal gangland-style slaying. Another strength of the film is the strong of new and returning supporting cast. There’s no doubt that the three leads, Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, and Red Mist, are the center of it all, but their performances and characters are enhanced by the great actors around them: Garrett M. Brown plays Kick-Ass’s long-suffering working class dad who only wants what’s best for his renegade son; John Leguizamo plays Red Mist’s limo driver, content to go with the flow while his charge embarks on a journey of destruction; and Jim Carrey and Donald Faison as members of the Justice League-esque organization of superheroes. All are wonderful and enjoyable additions to the film, and all are relevant to the development of our leads.
Kick-Ass 2 is a good film. It doesn’t go full Wrath of Khan/Empire Strikes Back/The Dark Knight, but it’s a solid second chapter, more of what we loved from the first one with enough tweaks to keep us interested. It all works, despite the miniscule budget leading to a few cases of obvious blue-screen and the climactic battle looking slightly less epic than I had hoped. Also, there aren’t really any moments as awe-inspiring as the “Elvis Jetpack” scene from the first film but, overall, Kick-Ass fans will be pleased to see the continued adventures of their favorite anti-heroes.