IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 103 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Dave Lizewski is having a break from being Kick-Ass, but is being trained to be tougher by Hit-Girl, aka Mindy Macready. Then Mindy decides to retire from her Hit-Girl persona at the request of her new guardian, and bored Dave gets back into his superhero career, joining a team of fellow vigilantes called ‘Justice Forever’ and getting involved in a physical relationship with one of them, Night-Bitch. However, Chris d’Amico wants revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his dad. Unfortunately, his mother doesn’t seem to care, his bodyguard Javier just does as told, and his uncle Ralph just wants to take back control of the family business and have everyone lay low. Accidently killing his mother, he decides to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a super-villain known as The Mother ******, hiring his own gang in the process…….
Kick-Ass was a real breath of fresh air, a wonderfully anarchic, often down-to-earth yet still often outrageous, take on the superhero genre that was sometimes insanely funny, but also had heart when it needed it. Though David Gillespie sings its praises elsewhere on this website, I felt that, whilst overall a success, it did have its problems. Too many situations and even lines came from other films, while the idea of an eleven year old girl swearing like a trouper, even if the actress is thirteen in real life [which hardly makes a difference really], has surely got to be questionable, even in this day and age where foul language is sadly the province of the very young almost as much as it is of the young. Nonetheless, with its often razor-sharp script which parodied conventions as well as providing strong characters, outstanding direction by Matthew Vaughn especially during the action scenes, and excellent performances, it was a film which all involved could be proud of, and it also proved that you don’t need a huge amount of money to make a good film of this type.
So onto Kick-Ass 2, and the first movie ended with the possibility of a sequel, while since then writer Mark Millar, whose graphic novel of the same name provided the basis for Kick-Ass, wrote not just Kick-Ass 2 but Hit-Girl, continuing the story of Mindy. Unfortunately, even if you bear those factors in mind, Kick-Ass 2, which is based on both of the sequel graphic novels, still feels like one of those sequels that are made because the first film made money, not because the people involved really wanted to continue the story and cared about the characters. It was the director of Kick-Ass Matthew Vaughn who picked Jeff Wadlow to write and direct this sequel, and I bet he regrets it now. It has little of the humour, charm, heart and idealism of the first, just mechanically rehashing most of its ‘beats’, often to a tedious level. In this film Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl both decide to take off their masks and leave being superheroes four or five times and it becomes laughable, but not in a good way. The characters fail to be rounded as they were before, while most of the comedy seems to revolve around people saying rude sexual insults to each other. The story is even more derivative and is further hampered by far too many scenes, even important ones, lasting just a few seconds, as if the film was hastily cut down. Actually, I think it seems unfinished.
After the first few minutes we have our first action scene, and straight-away it’s obvious that you’re not watching a film that is anywhere near the first one in quality. One of the best things about the original is that each action scene was different and even filmed in a different manner. Here, with one exception, all you get is a load of martial arts fights which is appallingly shot with the camera being waved around trying to keep up with what is happening and hyper-fast cutting. Here’s an idea for all those incompetent directors and cinematographers who feel it is ‘cool’ and ‘edgy’ to shoot action this way: how about pulling back, letting shots last more than a second and keeping the bloody camera still so we can see what the hell is going on? The Wolverine had that problem, and before that World War Z [though that film was bad in many other ways too], and so forth. What is especially sad about the employment of this style in Kick-Ass 2 is that the film contains one really good action sequence involving Hit-Girl assaulting a van that is shot properly. Silly but very exciting, it’s probably the highlight of the film.
Much of the first half alternates almost like clockwork between three plot lines. There’s Mindy trying to settle in at high school and clashing with the’ royalty’, many scenes reminiscent of Mean Girls but without that film’s wit. There’s Dave forming a band of superheroes in scenes which are occasionally amusing but were done much better in Mystery Men. Then there’s Chris becoming the first super-villain and also forming a group of like-minded folk, which leads to a vile bit of business where he begins to rape someone but can’t ‘get it up’. I’m assuming this scene is supposed to be funny. It would have been better if the rape had actually gone ahead than it being used as an attempt to get a laugh. The film also attempts to have its cake and eat it several times like having Chris give his hench-people racist names. I laughed a couple of times, but too much of the script consists of either would-be funny stuff which falls flat or dialogue which is almost the same being repeated from scene to scene. And there is one scene which is just totally bad on all levels. It involves ‘Mother Russia’ and some cops in cars, and the combination of bad staging, awful editing, inept special effects and pure stupidity results in truly atrocious filmmaking which is painful to watch. The effects are often amazingly shoddy throughout. We’re all used to crappy CGI blood, but why on earth was it thought okay to show people vomiting when you can see a gap between the mouth and the vomit?
Most of the time, Kick-Ass 2 is not as bad as all that. In fact, it’s generally average viewing that passes the time reasonably enough if you switch your brain off and don’t want to care about what is happening on-screen. It’s probably more brutal than the first film, though the violence usually has less impact. It’s actually been considerably toned down from the comics and almost as much happens off-screen as on it, which brings me to Jim Carrey. I wonder if his decision not to publicise Kick-Ass 2 was not so much because of a reaction to the Sandy Hook killings, but because he took one look at his performance and felt ashamed. I consider Carrey to be an excellent actor in both comic and serious roles, but he seems lost here, never getting a handle on his character. Thankfully almost every other major member of the cast does a very good job. Aaron Taylor-Johnson emits considerable sensitivity and looks like he’s done a considerable amount of working out since the last film to boot, while Chloe Grace Moretz seems to be getting better and better and I can’t wait for her take on Carrie White. The stunningly gorgeous Lindy Booth, whom I can’t understand isn’t a big star by now, puts in what is easily her most memorable film appearance so far.
Watching Kick-Ass 2, I developed an even better appreciation of Kick-Ass then I had before. It was a delicate balancing act and navigated some difficult waters, but somehow, for the most part, they pulled it off. Consequently, Kick-Ass 2 feels like the movie Kick-Ass could have been if things hadn’t gone so right. Even the soundtrack, which reuses some of the original score themes but includes far less other music, isn’t anywhere near as good. It partially entertains, but is sunk by laziness [example: why bring back two strong characters from the first film and do nothing with them?], callousness and just plain poor filmmaking. The spark is gone.