Does Kick-Ass 2, kick ass too?...
It's not always fair to compare a sequel to its original, as opposed to taking it on its own merit. But, in the case of Kick-Ass 2, it's an almost impossible feat NOT to, considering how badly it seems to want to be like its older sibling.
After the events of Kick-Ass, Dave (the titular Kick Ass) and Mindy (Hit Girl) have moved on with their lives and are facing their biggest challenge yet - high school. Dave is easily lured back into action when a new crew of costumed heroes called Justice Forever, inspired by Kick Ass himself, recruits him to join their fight against evil. Mindy, however, is honoring a promise made to her new foster father to never become Hit Girl again and, instead, must contend with the most evil group of villains yet - stuck up, privileged high school bitc witches. When the first film's Red Mist rechristens himself The Motherfu**er, hereby shortened to 'The MF' -- he decides he wants revenge for his father's death. He plans to take it out on Kick Ass, Hit Girl, and the entire city, but will the heroes, old and new, band together to save the day?
One of the biggest complaints about a superhero franchise is in how much time the first movie must devote to being an origin story. When the second one rolls around, our heroes are already introduced and trained and can jump right into action. The problem with the Kick Ass series, however is that the origin story is what was so great about it. Now that Kick Ass is fairly good at what he does, it makes for a far less interesting and far less original story. The first film gave us a young man struggling to do some good and then realizing that he is in way over his head. In this one, he is much more up for the challenge and we just don't find ourselves as invested in his story. It seems as if we may get some of the magic back from the original in the form of his bumbling partners in Justice Forever (including a fun, but disowned, turn by Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes), but even they become near-expert heroes after just a single training montage (if I had known it was that easy...).
Kick-Ass was known for having its share of rather crazy and extreme fight scenes. The makers of the sequel are well aware of that, and they dial up the carnage even further this time. With much more action in the sequel, we're certainly never bored during the running time, but we don't feel the same sentiment for the characters involved. While we appreciate that we're given the abundance of action, it feels a bit empty when what surrounds those scenes can't quite live up to it.
It's definitely not all bad, however. Your favorite aspect of the first film, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), is still going to be your favorite thing about this one. This time, instead of a 'little girl' completely obliterating the bad guys while spouting language that would make David Mamet blush, we get a girl in high school doing, well, the same thing. And, luckily, that's what we came here to see. She does plenty of 'ass-kicking' in this one, of course (in particular, a fantastic scene taking place on a freeway), but she also does some great work out of costume. There are several nuances that suggest that she's mere days away from teenage hormones taking over completely, which ups the ante for any girl her age, and it goes a long way in developing her character beyond that of just a tiny killer. She remains the most interesting character in the movie, and has developed far beyond her character in the first film. A couple of highlights - a scene in the woods where it seems as if we may be about to get an advanced preview of Moretz's upcoming role in the remake of Carrie, and a charming scene where her training helps her excel at a dance squad audition that she was never expected to do so well at.
One of the core messages of the original film is that, while noble, choosing to fight crime can have serious consequences. Those consequences are also amplified in the sequel. Fighting crime is NOT a safe choice to make for the fighter or the ones they love, and that point is certainly driven home. They don't play it safe here, that is for sure. In an interesting irony - this movie is largely about a group of people who were inspired to become heroes themselves through the actions of Kick Ass, but anyone watching this movie will probably be instantly turned off by the idea. It will not end well for you, so don't do it, no matter what kind of a deal you can get on a wet suit.
In addition, the dark tone of the original is turned up quite a bit here. The film's second most interesting character, The MF, TRULY becomes a supervillain and you may be a little shocked at how far he goes with some of his actions. He does not dance around being evil - he encompasses it and it works in favor of the movie. He also gains a bunch of new sidekicks, including the great Mother Russia who adds a lot of twisted fun (a scene where she battles cops starts at 10 and continues to escalate from there) and may prove to be too much even for Hit Girl. Lastly, the final fight between the good guys and the bad guys, and particularly Hit Girl vs. Mother Russia, is an absolute blast. Be sure to stick around after the credits to learn a little more...
Jason's Final Thoughts:
Make no mistake, Kick-Ass 2 is a fun ride and you should absolutely watch it, but be ready to be somewhat let down. It just doesn't have that same touch that made the original film the second best 'normal guy becomes a superhero' movie that year (the best being the HIGHLY underrated Super). It's much darker and heavier in action than the original, which is great, but, unlike most superhero movies, Kick-Ass was much more special when the hero wasn't yet fully established. As we are clearly set up for a third film, let's hope that this 'difficult sophomore album' was just a bumpy, but decent bridge between the superior first and (hopefully) third films.
Review by Jason Howard. Special to Influx MagazineShare: