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‘Kick-Ass 2’ a smirky, incoherent, unpleasant jumble of a superhero satire

kick ass 2 poster

Kick-Ass 2

Directed by Jeff Wadlow

Written by Jeff Wadlow

USA, 2013

Kick-Ass 2 is a rare film, one that is so messy and unpleasant that it makes one wonder if its predecessor was actually any good. The cast has, mostly, returned, but director Matthew Vaughn has stepped back into the producer’s chair. Maybe that’s the issue, or maybe the graphic novel series on which this sequel is based is just too mean-spirited and nasty to make a satisfying transition to the big screen. Whatever the case, Kick-Ass 2 is a misguided, uncomfortable, cartoonish, and gratuitously violent affair that’s best ignored.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson returns as Dave Lizewski, the nerdy high-schooler who moonlights as the masked superhero Kick-Ass, who’s now looking for some allies instead of fighting crime on his lonesome. He reaches out to Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), but she chooses to take off her mask and live a normal life to appease her guardian/late father’s old NYPD partner (Morris Chestnut). Thus, Dave becomes part of a would-be Justice League headed by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), and has to fend off a particularly gruesome group of villains headed by his old ally Chris D’Amico, who was once the superhero Red Mist and now fashions himself a supervillain named The Mother Fucker (still played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse). The players all accounted for, all that’s left is for these cosplaying fighters to pull out all of their weaponry and destroy each other in the loudest, nastiest, bloodiest ways possible.

kick-ass-2

There is an excess of meaningless violence in Kick-Ass 2. Of course, writer-director Jeff Wadlow may presume that by having his characters utter the word “consequences” at full volume with some amount of portent, he’s acknowledging each murderous act as something that inspires real grief. Not so. Part of the problem is that Kick-Ass 2 wants very badly to be a satiric romp furthering the notion of the vigilante as superhero, until it wants to pluck on our heartstrings, to make us empathize and feel sad for those on screen now crying when once they were bleeding. Tonally, Kick-Ass 2 is just all over the place. One immensely troublesome subplot—in which Hit Girl revives herself as Mindy MacReady and tries to fit in with the popular girls at her local high school—starts wrong and devolves downward until it culminates in an unnecessary and disgusting gross-out gag. Soon after, there’s a somber funeral that turns into an intentionally rousing fight scene atop a van roof replete with laughable green screen. In between, there’s a stab at new romance for Dave mixed in with an attempted rape played for comedy (because nothing’s funnier than attempted rape!), prison violence, and the revelation that boy bands are the key to unlocking a teenage girl’s romantic urges.

Except, of course, these aren’t so much revelations as they are smirky, almost bullying winks to the crowd. Though Wadlow wrote the script, this is likely as much the product of Kick-Ass 2’s source material, by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. Millar, especially, is as much a provocateur as an artist or writer, and Kick-Ass 2 tries to provoke amidst all the blood and guts being spilt, but fails because these are the provocations of a kid who’s just discovered the wonder and magic of swearing whenever he wants to. A 10-year old boy may think saying “fuck” is clever and cool, but the allure dies quickly. Wadlow and Millar are, apparently, perpetually stuck at age 10, perpetually convinced that they’re secretly the smartest people in the room. But no, Kick-Ass 2 is a dumb movie failing to masquerade as smart, even though there are some enjoyable moments or bits sprinkled throughout the morass.

Specifically, Carrey—in spite of his odd stance to avoid promoting a film that’s violent from top to bottom and must have presented as such when he read the script—is easily the best thing about this film, tapping into the sociopathic streak these characters all display and skewering it. Most everyone else here treats such sociopathy as if it’s true heroism. His Colonel Stars and Stripes proudly pronounces himself one of the good guys, but Carrey knows he’s just a step or two from being a supervillain. In another criminally small role, John Leguizamo, as The Mother Fucker’s hapless protector, offers some fresh, welcome realism despite being surrounded with mindless chaos. Johnson and Moretz make little impact in this sequel, the latter losing much of the deliberately disturbing spark she represented in the original. Yes, it may be shocking for a teenage girl to viciously beat thugs to a pulp or confidently wield a gun in an adult’s face, but after Kick-Ass, Hit Girl is more a poser than anything else.

Jim Carrey kick ass 2

Kick-Ass 2, similarly, is a poser. Its title include profanity, its villain names himself with an R-rated term (and his name for the group of bad guys he assembles is even more vulgar, if such a thing is possible), and gore spurts from the heavens like rain. What is meant to provoke only feels tiresome. All the foul language and ultraviolence in the world won’t be able to hide this movie’s noxious soul. Here is a film that appears to believe that women are, by and large, self-involved shrews or damsels in distress unable to fend for themselves—the Hit Girl-as-Mindy subplot is truly horrifying in this respect. Kick-Ass 2 is a film about an ever-growing number of lunatics, created (mostly) by people who think those tendencies are pure of heart, which is legitimately shocking in all the wrong ways.

— Josh Spiegel


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