Review: Kick-Ass 2 / by Steve Russell

Front Street: I’m a huge fan of Kick-Ass. 

I, like most people, thought the comic was sensational and found the first movie to be a great foray into a twisted version of what a colourfully ‘grounded’ reality could look like for these, for lack of a better word, ‘superheroes’ to inhabit. Wait, vigilante may be better, actually. Quibbles aside with story changes (the original comic hadn’t even finished its original run whilst the movie was made and released), I found the first movie to be bold, brave and ballsout fun. Sure, some may have looked it at as morally abhorrent, and others may have since disowned their work on the movie, but I love the idea that Mark Millar, et al would, instead of seriously critiquing themselves and their work, instead shrug it off and laugh in the face of those trying to nay say them. Pretty punk rock. Pretty kick ass.

I’ve already read the run of Kick-Ass 2, so I was going in with a pretty good idea of what awaited me. I was already expecting that some key scenes would be modified, if not taken out completely (a key suburban scene jumps to mind) but, as a fan of the first movie and of the comic, I knew what would be in store tonally. Because of this I couldn’t help but smile to myself as I overheard a conversation between a slightly older lady in the lobby before the movie. She was lambasting the new Denzel/Marky Mark movie: 2 Guns. Listening to her wax lyrical about its moral ambiguities made me acutely aware of how much she was going to enjoy this!

The movie starts strong, with deliberate scenes juxtaposing the previous movie; in this case rather than Big Daddy shooting lil ol’ Hit Girl, we’ve got Hit Girl letting lose on Kick-Ass. Set three years after the first movie, we find Dave Lizewski out of the crime fighting game, with Mindy Macready (aka Hit Girl) anxious to get him involved again, doing what she feels they should be dedicating their time to. Y’know, vigilante crime fighting.

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One thing that Kick-Ass 2 establishes early is their willingness to wear its (one movie) history on its sleeve, as demonstrated by the opening moments. There are plenty of references, throw away lines and even highlighted dramatic moments that calls back to the first Kick-Ass. The way that the story evolves from the ending of the first makes a sort of twisted logical sense, especially for the ‘hero’ formally known as Red Mist, now known so fondly as The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse on movie stealing form). However, this balancing of multiple story themes is where the whole movie begins to fall apart. 

You have a high drama revenge story co-existing with a quirky coming of age story; couple this with the multitude of relationships that exist between characters and factions and you’ve suddenly got a lot of spinning plates to deal with. The pacing suffers because of this, building steadily and unevenly until the final act when it feels like too many major events  are coming at you, thick and fast! (Calm down) So much so that what should be a deeply poignant, or emotional, moment is gone as quickly as it arrived barely leaving an impression on the characters, let alone the audience.

The coming of age slant of the narrative is intently focused on Mindy (Hit Girl) rather than on Dave (Kick-Ass). Ironic, considering the name of the movie. This arc is handled pretty well by writer/director Jeff Wadlow who is unafraid of expressing harsh truths via the lexicon of his female characters. Look out for one particular highlight: “I’m soaked.” I’ll leave out the context here, but keep an ear open for it during your viewing. 

There are some genuinely great moments in this film, mostly involving Christopher Mintz-Plasse or Jim Carrey as the unhinged Colonel Stars and Stripes, so it’s a shame that the main character of the whole thing is not only the least developed, but also the least interesting throughout the movies entire run time. 

That being said, and allow me to take an unobjective step back here, I feel this is telling of where the comic and, potential, movie series is going. With Hit-Girl getting her own series of comics recently, if the bank roll allows it I’m sure we’ll be seeing a Hit-Girl movie within the next few years. 

Kick-Ass 2 actually gets a lot of the tone right

Kick-Ass 2 actually gets a lot of the tone right

The humour will be a mixed bag for some, and I’m sure will be polarizing for many in the audience. Personally, I prefer high brow just as much as I enjoy low brow humor, I used to watch Fraser after all, but Kick-Ass 2 makes no bones about it: this is aiming low. And, to be honest, if it did anything but it would be totally disingenuous to itself and its predecessor. 

That lady I mentioned earlier? Yeah, she seemed to hate everything I found funny. 

I can think of two major jokes that will instantly split audiences: one involves something called the Sick Stick (you know, like the one in Minority Report!) and the other involves a joke about rape. Yeah, rape. A rape joke. Let that sink in for a moment.

Now, this isn’t going to become a forum about the moral rights and wrongs of such things, but I will say that the majority of the cinema, myself included, laughed at both. Some due to awkwardness or embarrassment, and others because, simply put, it was fucking funny. 

Is Kick-Ass 2 a perfect sequel? Not by a long shot. Just like the first movie there has been plenty of creative license between what we got in the comics and what we see on screen, but for all its faults Kick-Ass 2 is a fun, if not supremely predictable, ride. It won’t be for everyone, but then it’s not meant to be. Kick-Ass 2, just like Kick-Ass, knows its audience well. 

The colours are suitably bright and the action is appropriately fast, violent and enthused, with foul language and, at times literal, potty humour in full effect but it’s all, ultimately, superficial. Fun while it lasts, despite its inconsistent pacing, but temporary and forgettable in the shadow of its predecessor; that integral truth, that interesting realism and substance that the first movie brought to the table is sorely missing with this second outing making Kick-Ass 2 nothing more than an enjoyable, but unsatisfying, sugar rush.

Steve Russell // @stevetendo

★★★☆☆  

Kick-Ass 2 is out now in theatres nationwide