Although Kick-Ass 2 is just as over-the-top as it’s predecessor, writer-director Jeff Wadlow’s sequel never rarely forgets to keep his characters grounded. The plot follows Hit-Girl/ Mindy Macready (Chloe Moretz) trying to put her previous identity behind her, while Kick-Ass/ Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) joins a group of fellow super-hero wannabes, but is unaware that Chris D’Amico/ formerly Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is plotting revenge with his own gang, under a new name, for the death of his father. Despite having my critical knives sharpened for what I expected to be a dismal sequel, K-A2 is actually a more mature and endearing film than the original.
That’s not to say the raunchy humour has been dialed down, with jokes involving leather sex toys, projectile diarrhea, erectile dysfunction and teenage vaginal lubrication all present and correct. The film certainly couldn’t be accused of subtlety in terms of its humour or violence, but the film is edited so smoothly, you’re never allowed to dwell on any lapse into tastelessness for too long.
Although this may sound like the synopsis for Movie 43, K-A2 actually tackles many interesting themes in spite of its crass tone. Whereas the original film often prioritised looking self-consciously cool, Wadlow actually examines how the characters adjust to the amount of violence they are exposed to. For instance the notion of revenge is shown as cyclical and unsatisfying while much of Kick-Ass and his group’s vigilantism, although being used to entertain the audience, has harshly affecting consequences for many of the ragtag superheroes. Meanwhile Hit-Girl’s fish-out-of-water storyline in high-school involving some Mean Girls-style hijinks interestingly points out that all she’s missed is being overly sexualised by vacuous pop culture. The filmmakers do not shy away from counterpointing many of the girl’s sluttiness with Hit-Girl’s rather masculine penchant for violence which some may see as overwhelmingly misogynistic and misguided but Chloe Moretz’s tremendous performance makes it very compelling.
Moretz is the not the only strong performer in a film littered with vivid characters, such as Jim Carrey’s brilliant combination of right-wing boy scout and Robert De Niro-style mobster rounding out the fascinating Colonel Stars-and-Stripes and his canine sidekick Eisenhower. Mintz-Plasse is suitably brattish and race-insensitive as the newly named Muthafucker, (which in itself adds a weird Oedipal element to his character considering what he’s wearing). There an eclectic bunch of supporting characters whether they be Kick-Ass’s sexy but vulnerable new lover the Night-Bitch (Lindy Booth) or the terrifying Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina), and many recognisable television faces such as Donald Faison (Turk from Scrubs) filling out the supporting cast.
Taylor-Johnson is solid in the lead role and his relationship with his father allows for some moving drama amidst the fun and games. The Kick-Ass films are not subtle and a lot of the social media based humour will probably age badly in a few years. They are not great pieces of cinema but just exercises in fanboy obsessions with sex and violence, with very little strong emotional connection to real life. But damned if this sequel did a far more ambitious job of nurturing its characters into figures we care about. Amidst the nihilistic violence that the critics have slated and Jim Carrey himself disowned, certain scenes pack a real emotional heft as they make sure that the superhero characters are not invulnerable to tragedy. So despite the third act’s attempts to tie-up the character threads a little too neatly to please the masses, there is a deceptive punch to Kick-Ass 2 that I feel many viewers have not been open to recieving. P.S. A drinking game could be devised for every time a characters says “the real world” or someone gets hit or mauled in the crotch area. It does get repetitive.
Kick-Ass 2 (2013), directed by Jeff Wadlow, is released in the UK by Universal Pictures, Certificate 15.