Kick-Ass was one of the bigger surprises for me when I first saw it. Having not read the comic the film’s dark overtones, commentary on violence in media and perturbing escalation of said violence left me coming out of the theater thinking. That’s a pretty big rarity for a film featuring people dressing up in costumes.
Now we’ve got a sequel, but for a film that made such a strong statement is a sequel really necessary? Furthermore, will Jeff Wadlow (writer/director) be able to capture the originality and not-so-subtle nuances that made the first film stand out? Read on to find out.
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Release Date: August 16
Kick-Ass 2 picks up a few years after Kick-Ass. Regular people dressing up as superheroes is a more normal thing now, though Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has quit the superhero thing and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) is operating in secret since she was adopted by a friend of her now dead father. After a few brief lines explaining why he’s going back to being Kick-Ass, Dave joins back up with Hit-Girl/Mindy and the two start fighting crime together. Unfortunately that doesn’t sit well with Mindy’s new dad so she promises she’ll stop, leaving Dave alone until he joins a new team of heroes led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).
Meanwhile Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has gone a bit insane since Kick-Ass killed his evil father and decides he’ll be the world’s first super villain. Donning tight latex and hiring a group of henchmen he turns himself in The Motherfucker. Things start to really escalate from there as the film takes the same road as the original and starts to realistically show what would happen if you dressed up like a superhero while also somehow still being a ludicrous superhero movie.
It’s that dichotomy that the original nailed so well, but the second film really struggles with. While the dark tone and over arching themes of the original made for a movie that fully embraced its contradictions this one loses its way. There is plenty of focus on the characters, which is great, but their development almost feels like a rerun of the original and the darker edges of the first film are unfortunately buried under a bit too much comedy. The film is stretching for meaning, but never really gets there. Wadlow’s direction sends things too far into the comedic zone when the movie should be sitting in the dark comedy area.
Part of that issue is that Mortez is now older and wiser so her performance reflects that. Much of the film deals with her character attempting to be a normal person after her father spent her life training her to fight crime, but there’s never any real struggle there for the character. You never once believe she won’t go back to fighting crime, so all the interesting character questions the first film was able to raised are lost behind stereotypical teenage drama stuff. There’s definitely an interesting film in there, but Kick-Ass 2 turns the role into a cliche that doesn’t really address the contradictions in the two worlds that Mindy is trying to inhabit. It tries hard, but can never pull it off.
Otherwise the cast is actually pretty awesome. Taylor-Johnson does a good enough job playing second fiddle in a movie named after his character, but it’s the supporting cast that should get most of the credit. Carrey’s performance is spot on, and surprisingly restrained for the actor. Instead of going over-the-top with an over-the-top role he tampers it into a restrained insanity that works wonders. Meanwhile Mintz-Plasse just goes all out crazy, performing admirably in more latex than he probably ever thought he’d wear in life.
It’s a rarity that the characters come before the action, but that was clearly the goal of Kick-Ass 2. Not that the action is shabby. There’s actually some truly brutal and well constructed sequences in here that definitely deliver on your hunger for folks getting beat up or killed creatively. Unfortunately, the focus on character doesn’t work thanks to a change in tone that’s more comedic than thoughtful. The original wasn’t some super intellectual film, but there was a lot to dig around in it. Kick-Ass 2 contains almost all the same themes and ideas, but it wears them on its sleeve and in its openness loses the very themes it was so obviously trying to express.