Kick-Ass 2 Review: Asses. Will. Be. Kicked.

For a while there, it seemed like this film wasn’t going to happen. Whilst the first film made a modest profit at the worldwide box office, it wasn’t quite the money-spinner the studios may have hoped for. With an ever so slightly reduced budget, the show is finally on the road and, despite a few hiccups; the wait is seemingly worth it.

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2 wastes no time in getting to the point. It opens with a rushed run through the important points the film’s predecessor, and this move would typically seem lazy and pandering, but here it feels necessary. Kick-Ass 2 makes its intentions clear from the start, and it picks up easily where Kick-Ass left off – taking the emotional beats through the sequel and continuing the tight and easy character development along an arc that begs for a resolution beyond what is offered here. Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl (a reliably committed Chloe Moretz) is now in the care of her father’s best friend Detective Williams (Morris Chestnut) and ready to start high school. Being the non-standard kid that she is, Mindy struggles with her new environment. Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass (a bulked-up Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is also struggling to adjust, and he needs Mindy’s help. Cue a very funny training montage that includes a little girl getting locked in an arm bar and a wince-worthy nutshot. Christopher Mintz-Plasse reprises his role as Chris D’Amico, with his alter ego now being the deliciously Freudian “The Motherfucker” (wait for the beads – you’ll see what I mean). Half-an-hour in, it seems like business as usual, which feels like a relief, but actually raises a worry that Kick-Ass 2 may be content resting on its laurels. Luckily, there is a group of misfits intent on making sure that we don’t get too comfortable.

The introduction of her0/vigilante troupe Justice Forever is inspired. Although motives could have done with being fleshed out a little more, there are some affecting stories that add further credibility to the film’s serious side (more on that later). Jim Carrey does some of his most memorable work as Colonel Stars and Stripes, and Donald Faison’s boundless enthusiasm looks good on Dr Gravity. On the other side of the coin, The Motherfucker gathers his own gang of toughs, including the brutally brilliant Mother Russia, who doles out the majority of the film’s best beatings. Inevitably, the two groups collide, and when they do its one of the best potions of any movie you’re likely to see this year. The acting is uniformly solid, and the supporting cast manages to leave enough of an impression despite certain members having fairly limited screen time. Moretz seems perfectly settled in both her roles, and continues to impress with the kind of face that manages to convincingly portray intense inner-turmoil. It’s a role that will remain her signature well in to what will no doubt be a long and healthy career. Carrey almost steals the show with his tough-as-nails performance, but the even the rubber-faced one would struggle to match the impressive presence of Moretz. Most strikingly, everyone seems to be enjoying themselves. There’s a hint of unbridled glee in the eyes of every cast member, and that’s something that you can’t fake.

Kick-Ass 2

There are some missteps however. A couple of musical choices jar badly with the spirit of the film, particularly the use of boy band Union J to provoke a somewhat creepy sexual awakening in Mindy. Even as a device for fun, it feels like giving Union J far too much air time. It also seems to add a little too much conflict to Mindy’s character; would she really be so attracted to a bunch of boys she could quite easily annihilate? Maybe it’s just me, but that scene in particular was bothersome. The director switch is also noticeable, for both good and bad reasons. Jeff Wadlow does a good enough job of allowing the film plenty of room to breathe, but at times the tone fluctuates so much that it’s hard to get a handle on certain situations. You feel that The Motherfucker could have been a more effective character if handled a little differently. Mintz-Plasse shows some convincing malice at times, but it is often undercut by humour which, whilst funny, is a detriment to a character that has so much potential. I’m not saying ditch the jokes altogether, but at least give the guy a chance sink his teeth into the dramatic sections before the next dick joke.

Sometimes, the uneven tone works in the film’s favour. Kick-Ass 2 is full of surprises and, just like the previous instalment, it has a mean streak a mile wide. This may veer into minor spoiler territory, but try not to get too attached to the characters. As with Nic Cage’s Big Daddy before now, no character is safe from the sword, and you can bet on some genuinely cruel violence. Ah, yes…the violence. As you’d expect, it’s handled in a comic manner, but there’s no denying that it revels in excess. Chances are you will have seen more violent films, but it’s rare to see so much fun had with it. I think it’s a good sign when you can laugh at the majority of the bloody battles, and scenarios with seriously high stakes are often punctuated with little reminders that you’re meant to be enjoying yourself. This is literally the case with Colonel Stars and Stripes order of “try to have fun” to the other members of Justice Forever just before they try to break up a prostitution operation.

I left the cinema feeling both relieved and excited. There’s plenty to love about the film. It’s gratuitous in so many ways that it’s hard not to admire how self-assured it is. From the willingness to lean on young leads, to the lack of fear shown in exploring Watchmen-like themes of identity and mental stability, there’s a level of child-like excitement that infects the film as a whole. With nods and references aplenty to genre’s canon, Kick-Ass 2 certainly has lofty ambitions, and although it doesn’t quite justify itself amongst the company it tries to keep, it has an awful lot of fun trying. Even though it doesn’t quite match the superior Kick-Ass, fans should be satisfied with a brave and uncompromising sequel, and I for one would welcome a closing chapter with open arms. (Note – stay past the end credits for something that could prove relevant to a possible third film).

Rating:

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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28 Comments

  1. Rodrigo
    0

    I enjoyed the first Kick Ass film and I also enjoyed the comic. To some extent, the Kick Ass comic was a darker, a little more cynical but I still enjoyed. Both were two sides to the same coin with the movie offering some actual super-hero elements and more hope (Dave actually gets a girl friend and Big Daddy isn’t %100 nuts) and the comic being more grounded in reality. Nevertheless, the comic had a somewhat hopeful outlook (at least Dave’s Dad finds someone and Hit Girl goes back to her Mom and gets to have a normal life).

    On the other hand, the comic of Kick-Ass 2 made me sick. It’s incredibly cynical and disturbing. Nothing matters, everything is hopeless, and we have to see a 16 year old girl have her family murdered and get gang-raped afterwards. I’m usually not a prude but the way the comic reveled in such nastiness (especially the rape and murder) just left a bad taste in my mouth.

    I went to the film with friends tonight and was dreading it all the way through. Afterwards, I felt so relieved that they strayed from the comic. I actually really appreciated how much more hopeful they tried to make the film with the heroes actually trying to make the world better and the murder/rape count way lower. I’m not saying it was a perfect film but, to paraphrase Conan O’Brien, cynicism is pointless.

    • CSI Lives
      0

      It sounds to me like you missed the point of the comic.

      Yes it’s cynical, but so is real life. The comic shows that dressing up and fighting crime has very real consequences, there are no victories, no happy endings. It takes everything Dave holds dear and destroys it, for all her troubles Mindy is arrested.

      Hell even the supposedly victorious moment of Dave defeating the villain is brought to a crushing reality for Dave: he realizes that in the end, he’s just a kid who pushed another kid off the roof of a building.

      Now I enjoyed the movie version of Kick-Ass 2, but it will never compare to the comic.

    • David Tatlow

      I’m glad that someone commented on movie VS comic book, as I didn’t want to touch that. I felt a standalone film review was the best way to go, so it’s great that you’ve facilitated further dicussion. Thanks for reading.

  2. I certainly didn’t hate, but I didn’t love it either. The movie left a pretty bad taste in my mouth early on with the rushed break up bet. Dave and Katie which I felt just assassinated both their characters, then we never see Katie again. The movie did have a lot going for it such as moments that made me crack up, I loved Jim Carry and I also loved the final battle. But after it was all over, I just walked out like eh, it was all right and that’s about it sorry to say.

    • David Tatlow

      I agree that the earlier section was a little off-putting. I think it works in the end though, as it would have been so easy to make this another two-and-a-half hour long “epic”, when Kick-Ass can generally afford to be leaner and meaner than, say, Nolan’s Batman movies. I think a lot of people will agree with you on the positives and negatives – it seems that Jim Carrey’s performance is a big plus for most people heading who have seen the film. Thanks for taking the time to read and contribute.

  3. Great review. I wasn’t too impressed by it myself. I did like the gay vigilante (though he was in it for like maybe 2 minutes), Jim Carrey, Chloe’s performance and the final battle, but overall it’s like, you’re watching all these things that can make anemic film and sadly come away with being just OK.

    • David Tatlow

      Thanks! The gay vigilante was a great inclusion (and fortunately relevant with what we’re seeing in Russia right now). I think he, and some of the other supporting characters, could have done a lot with a little more screen time. And you’ve touched upon the positives that others have done, but it seems as though most think that the film is struggling to maintain the momentum of its stronger moments.

  4. Devil Treat Me Like That
    0

    Thanks for giving this a positive review. It really shocks me how much the joke seems to go completely over most critics’ heads. Maybe we just live in a world too politically correct to allow people to lighten up and accept violence within certain contexts.

    • David Tatlow

      Hey, thank you for reading. Yeah, I think when we’re encountered with this kind of hyper-violence, a rational (albeit somewhat desensitised) person would see it for the joke it is. Ultimately, the “heroes” of the piece actually send a pretty decent message: stand up to the bad guys, the bullies and the people trying to make you think you’re wrong for being who you are. It’s a film about youthful rebellion as much as anything else, and the OTT violence just drives the point home aggressively and with real potency.

  5. Loved the first one, going to watch this on next week!

  6. Amelia Roberts
    0

    Great review! I’m quite looking forward to seeing it now. I’ve heard some really fantastic things about Chloe Moretz.

    • David Tatlow

      Thanks Amelia! I think it’s a film that has some clear flaws, but ultimately I enjoyed the hell out of it and I hope you do too. Chloe is in a really important place career-wise, and it’s a make-or-break age for most child actors. I think she has what it takes, as she handles the dramatic material with aplomb here.

  7. Haven’t seen the film yet, seem to be a mix of people with a mix of responses.

    If I enjoyed the first one, would you enjoy the sequel? Some have gone as far to say its a let down, will make my own mind up though. Loved the first.

    • David Tatlow

      I think if you go in to the film with expectations of it being better than the first, you will be let down. The film is really fun, and should be seen with the same spirit that you saw the first one – don’t expect, just sit back and enjoy and you won’t be disappointed.

  8. Kevin Wong

    enjoyed the first film but had doubts about this sequel, might well give it a shot after this review. Thanks!

    • David Tatlow

      It’s worth it. I can’t say for sure how you’ll react if you enjoyed the first, but it’s still violent and entertaining. If you can forgive a couple of little sticking points, it’s a real good time.

  9. Kelsey Clark

    Great review! I can’t wait to see this film.

  10. Taylor Ramsey

    Nice review, I would have put a rating for the content–I guess I’m getting old in that respect.
    This is a film I have been scared of. I liked the first more than I expected–much more than the comic–and this review eases some of the concern.

    • David Tatlow

      I was definitely a little apprehensive. The change of director and the pressures of a good previous installment can spell trouble for a potential franchise, but the strength of the source material, along with some strong performances and a real sense of fun, ensure that at the very least the film is entertaining.
      The Artifice doesn’t make me have content ratings – the things I have to say are too important for anyone to be deterred by content rating rules! (Note: This is sarcasm)

  11. Michelle Webb

    I’ve now got this feeling like I need to see it, and compare your article’s thoughts. Very well done, thanks for an informative read!

  12. Very detailed review. Thanks

  13. Andy Cashmore

    Good review. I personally enjoyed it more so than the original but I think that’s because Jim Carrey’s performance pleasantly surprised me and Donald Faison really made me laugh. I do agree that at times some immature jokes were misplaced, but I am glad it was a fun film and didn’t take itself too seriously.

    • David Tatlow

      I think that comic-book adaptations are always in danger of taking themselves too seriously. It seems that even now some people are inclined to devalue the importance of a piece of work because it comes with nice pictures – I had some opposition from people I know regarding the literary importance (or even relevance, if you can believe that) of Watchmen. If you take a look at The Dark Knight trilogy, you can see how drastically dark they had to keep the tone in order for the franchise to be taken seriously after the Batman and Robin fiasco. Even now, some people won’t be swayed on the matter. On the other side of the coin, you’ve got people criticising Marvel’s recent output for being too comic. It seems that there is a difficult balance to strike when adapting a comic-book, and I think that Kick-Ass 2 benefits greatly from disregarding that particular wrangle and just having fun. Thanks for reading.

  14. Jennifer Carr

    Kick-Ass was one of my favourite movies of 2010. I just had such a good time in it, so I was a little wary of this sequel. A switch in directors always worries me a little bit, but your review sounds like it’s a good time after all. It just sounds a shame that Christopher Mintz-Plasse doesn’t get to go all-out with the villainy side of things, but I figure there’s plenty of other stuff to enjoy. I think I’ll check it out, help it’s box office revenue (I hear it’s getting clobbered in the US).

    • David Tatlow

      It has an awful lot going for it. It’s definitely a good time. The film seems to be doing well in the UK, even if our market is pretty tiny in terms of worldwide box office. The first installment found a fanbase on DVD sales, and I think that might happen again with the sequel. I’m surprised it isn’t doing so well in this pro-superhero movie world we live in, but then again the film’s lead is Aaron Taylor-Johnson, who isn’t really a big draw on his own. Chloe Moretz is still too young to hinge a movie on, and people don’t flock to see Jim Carrey like they used to. A bigger star may have helped, but sometimes people just aren’t as interested as they should be…thanks for reading.

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