Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Morris Chestnut, Claudia Lee, Clark Duke, Augustus Prew
Rated: R for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity
“Kick-Ass 2,” the follow up to 2010’s “Kick-Ass”, seems unsure of what exactly it wants to be. The first film was an (admittedly very, very violent) exploration of what happens when ordinary people try to be superheroes, and the psychological toll that takes on ordinary kids. The sequel seems to be trying to continue that theme (and the violence) but also examine identity, compare the trials of adolescence to the trials of fighting crooks, the importance of genuine friendship, and throw in a little slapstick, juvenile humor for good measure. It’s kind of a mess, and how much you like it (or indeed, whether you like it at all) will depend heavily on your tolerance for incoherence and whether any of the elements included are dealbreakers.
The film picks up a few years after the events of the last one. Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), who used to moonlight as Kick-Ass, a stick-wielding superhero, has mostly given up the life of crime-fighting. Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) hasn’t, against the wishes of her new foster-father, Marcus (Morris Chestnut). She cuts school to train, and when Dave catches her, he talks her into training him, too. Before long, he’s back on the street as Kick-Ass, and he winds up joining a little league of heroes, Justice Forever, lead by Col. Stars & Stripes (Jim Carrey). Carrey’s performance is all too brief, but surprisingly solid. If they’d given him a bit more screen time he might have helped to anchor the film a bit.
Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), once Red Mist, has rechristened himself with an expletive and is trying to become the world’s first supervillian. With his parents dead, he’s incredibly wealthy, so he buys henchmen, gear, and awesome costumes, and sets about tracking down Kick-Ass to get some vengeance for the events of the last film.
To the filmmakers’ credit, they did their best to take much of the vile stuff from the comic book (written by Mark Millar, a charming fellow who considers rape and decapitation to be equivalent useful ways of showing a character is evil), but what they’ve replaced it with includes a rape set-up that devolves into a performance-anxiety joke and teenaged mean-girl types experiencing forced vomiting and diarrhea in the middle of the high school cafeteria.
That kind of raunch humor feels out of place in a film which also includes cold-blooded gruesome violence, torture, and a pair of deaths that are clearly supposed to hit the audience hard emotionally. But how are a couple deaths supposed to matter when the ocean of carnage around them is apparently all in good fun? We watch as the baddies take out over a dozen cops in increasingly dramatic and messy ways (including using a lawnmower), and it’s filmed as fun action stuff. Apparently your death only matters if you’re a named character who’s on the good guys’ team.
This isn’t to say that “Kick-Ass 2” is bad, exactly. It’s more like someone made several different versions of it, then tried to edit them together. It’s an uneven, oddly-paced mess of a sequel. If all you want is to see more of Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, and you don’t mind sitting through some stupid stuff to get them, it’s worth your money. If, on the other hand, you loathe stupid humor or unevenly-edited films, just go back and rewatch the first film.