Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Written by: Jeff Wadlow (screenplay), Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. (comic)
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey and Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Kick-Ass 2 is the follow up to the wildly original 2010 film Kick-Ass (directed by Matthew Vaughn), based on a comic book by Mark Millar. At the time, Kick-Ass was a fresh take on the super hero genre, a mash-up of extreme violence, humor and heart. Its nerdy protagonist (played by Aaron Johnson) wasn’t a super hero at all. He was just an average Joe who donned a costume and made a feeble attempt to fight the good fight with predictably disastrous consequences. Kick-Ass also introduced us to Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) a spitfire little girl wearing a purple wig. Armed with a foul-mouth and a skillset that would shame any respectable ninja, Hit Girl arguably stole the show and became a fan favorite.
In Kick-Ass 2, Hit Girl once again steals the show, and your enjoyment of Kick-Ass 2 is going to be contingent on your feelings toward her character. Kick-Ass 2 caters to the same crowd as the original, but it’s darker, grittier and more violent than its predecessor. That’s partly because Moretz is older and the film can push the boundaries a bit more. Watching a little girl get the crap beat out of her made for some uncomfortable viewing. Now that Hit Girl is a teenager it evens the score a bit and doesn’t feel as dirty.
It might surprise you that for the majority of the movie, Hit Girl (real name Mindy) swears off the mask and wig after she promises her guardian Marcus she’ll stay out of trouble. She attempts to live the life of a normal teenager and experiences all the awkward contrivances of fitting in at high school, making for most of the film’s lighter moments.
Meanwhile Kick-Ass joins a group of misfit vigilantes led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). They successfully take down a few thugs, but when Red Mist (now reinvented as Motherfucker) and his stable of villains send a horrific message to the vigilantes, they quickly realize they are way out of their league. After the villains leave a trail of carnage in their wake, Hit Girl comes out of her brief retirement for the film’s bloody but satisfying third act.
Carrey has publicly denounced the film’s violence and has refused to do any promotion. That seems odd after the fact, but there is a lot of extreme violence on display. One scene depicting the brutal slaughter of several policemen is particularly unsettling. There’s far more gore in Kick-Ass 2 than you’ll find in most horror films. Whereas in Kick-Ass Red Mist was a cartoonish send up of villain archetypes, here he (as Motherfucker) is truly evil. That’s probably the natural progression of the series, but it’s bound to stir up some controversy.
Writer/director Jeff Wadlow has created a stylistically sound film, but it’s impossible to recapture the ingenuity of the original. That’s precisely why the appeal of the film depends on your affinity for the original characters. Aside from Carrey’s surprisingly appealing Colonel Stars and Stripes, there aren’t a lot of memorable newcomers, so it’s up to Moretz and Johnson to carry the film. Moretz is fantastic, and Johnson still exudes the boyish charm of Kick-Ass. If you liked them in the original you should have fun with this one. Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t bring anything new to the table, but it’s still immensely entertaining. – Shannon