The Sunday Film Review: Kick-Ass 2
Director: Jeff Wadlow (2013)
Christmas 2011: a young(er) handsome wannabe indie filmmaker, working at a crappy supermarket, becomes so fed up reading propaganda declaring there would be no Christmas if he didn’t purchase an inane little film titled Rise of the Planet of the Apes, he wrote a remarkably badly thought out and poor structured review about a much better film: Kick-Ass.
Snap back to reality: if you can’t be bothered to read my Kick-Ass review (you should, it’s one of my better ones), I’ll summate: Kick-Ass is a hell of a film worth anyone’s time. Now, almost inevitably, there’s a sequel, but unlike a lot of films getting the sequel treatment (EVERY superhero film due out not involving Patrick Stewart) I’m actually optimistic Kick-Ass 2 could be decent, if not good. Kick-Ass one had such a nice deep story; there are plenty of interesting directions for a sequel to go in. Will my optimism be rewarded? Will I be entertained? Will the legacy of Kick-Ass be buried forever beneath a weight of lazy ill-thought out garbage? A vague answer to these questions coming up…………………. NOW!
CAUTION: The following plot summary contains spoilers from the first film, go and watch Kick-Ass if you haven’t already, not for the sake of this review, but for the sake of your soul.
Kick-Ass 2 picks up a couple of years (I think, it’s a bit vague) after Kick-Ass ended; Dave Lizewski a.k.a Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, adding Taylor to his name as a sign he found love………..awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww) has retired from internet fan videos and jet pack whey-hey fun, in order to settle down as a boring normal high-school kid….. with shattered nerve endings. The legacy of Kick-Ass however, lives on; ordinary citizens have begun to follow Kick-Ass’s lead, and a new generation of masked superheroes have taken begun to take to the street to do good deeds.
Inspired by the people inspired by him, Dave, very quickly decides it’s time to put the Kick-Ass mask back on, and asks his fellow undercover superhero highschooler Mindy Macready, a.k.a Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz, who survived the pointless English language Let Me In remake relatively unscathed, hooray) to train him. The training starts well enough, with Dave managing a few pull ups etc, but a montage or two later (and an unfortunate scene with a tired ‘pimp clothes’ joke), we learn that Hit Girl has her own baggage. You see now her, I think it’s fair to say slightly psychotic, father is dead; her care is in the hands of expository dialogue specialist Sargent Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut, a fine actor who’s underused). Sargent Williams wants Mindy to be a normal high school girl, so he bans her from being Hit Girl, which Mindy agrees to……….. I have no idea why, something to do with a letter……………..it isn’t really explained, and that’s the end of Dave’s training.
I’ll go in more depth later, but it’s at this point is Kick-Ass 2 divides itself into entertaining and boring storyline mode. Entertaining storyline mode involves Dave meeting other masked heroes and joining a group headed by born again christian Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey with a nice turn). The boring involves Mindy trying to be a high-school cool girl.
Elsewhere, Christopher Mintz-Plasse returns as Chris D’Amico. Now determined to avenge the death of his father at the hands of Kick-Ass, Chris drops his Red Mist hero persona in favour of becoming super villain The Motherfucker and with the help of family butler/go to guy Javier (John Leguizamo, I think Mr Leguizamo is an underrated actor, but he does little to help my case here), puts together his own team of super villains.
PLOT SUMMARY FINISHES
Right then, let’s start with some of the things I liked about Kick-Ass 2. Most of the Dave a.k.a Kick-Ass, storyline is tight, well told and filled with the sort of strong characterisation that impressed me so much in the first instalment. I found myself getting attached to the super hero team, joining the on form Jim Carry were some nice contributions from Donald ‘Turk from scrubs, you will always be recognised first as Turk from scrubs, do not despair, this is a sign you played that part well’ Faison and Lindy Booth, as team members Doctor Gravity and Night Bitch respectively. There’s a really nice scene the first time the superhero group go out on a mission, everyone gets a chance to shine and you see the beginnings of an interesting group dynamic. Away from that, it was also nice to see the way Dave developed as a character, he endures a fair bit of dark times in Kick-Ass 2, and his character sort of grows up in a logical, well told way..
Next up in the ‘good’ section: Christopher Mintz-Plasse.
In my Kick-Ass one review I commented that perhaps Mr Mintz-Plasse was a bit dull at times (along with Nick Cage), and Kick-Ass 2 started in the same vein, but one unfortunate ‘guns can mean boobs’ joke later (a joke so bad they actually had a character explain it) his performance developed into probably my favourite thing about the whole film. Chris D’Amico is just a fun, unpredictable villain. You’re never quite sure how evil he really is, at times he’s getting beaten up or embarrassed, at others he’s paying a henchman or two to do some pretty reprehensible stuff. It’s a good, balanced performance, probably the best I’ve seen from Mintz-Plasse, a good villain is one you can sort of sympathise with, or understand, for the most part, that’s what Mintz-Plasse provides. There is the most inane rape joke of all time though, but I’ll save that for the next section.
Next section titled: stuff I disliked or down right hated about Kick-Ass 2.
First and foremost, the humour is all over the place. Kick-Ass one had very tight, anti-humour, humour. A guy exploding in an industrial pressure valve-thing (no I don’t know what it’s called) became amusing because it was the exact opposite of what the bumbling villains intended to happen, there was a quiet, understated delivery of a lot of brutal dialogue, mixed with interesting/creative musical track choices. It wasn’t so much a glamorisation of violence at it was the strange and the bizarre. The same team behind Kick-Ass worked on the sequel (all be it a change of director) yet they seem to have missed the point entirely.
The ‘rape joke’ is a perfect example of this. I’ll set the scene; The Motherfucker has discovered the identity of a female member of the superhero group his nemesis Kick-Ass runs about with. Along with some henchman (including the brutal Mother Russia played nicely by Olga Kurkulina), The Motherfucker storms the house, captures the woman in question and orders a henchman to hold her down so he can rape her. Except he gets stage fright, and despite trying hard can’t achieve an erection, so he just orders his henchman to beat up the woman instead.
Listen, I’m a shades of grey kind of guy, I think anything can be funny and context is the determining factor, but that aint funny. I’m guessing the jokes meant to be on the Motherfucker because he couldn’t rape the woman, or maybe I’m meant to think ‘ha, look at that woman getting one over on the villain because she just got beaten instead of penetrated, ha ha ha’. It’s rubbish, unfunny and unnecessary, why go there if you can’t deliver? It just makes the writing team look like morons, or out of touch, or possibly rapists. It’s the wasted time not being funny that annoys me more than the subject, but if anyone comes out as offended by such a crap attempt at a joke regarding such a hot potato of a topic, I wouldn’t argue with them.
Speaking of wasted time, the entire Mindy a.k.a Hit Girl is dire, and I mean dire. They seemed to be going for this whole ‘finding herself’ subplot, but it actually didn’t amount to anything. The same Hit Girl comes out of the subplot as went in, and it’s actually entirely different, unrelated events involving Dave and Chris’s feud that cause her character to do anything remotely interesting. That means you spend a third of the film watching Mindy battle high school politics and discover her feelings for guys (totally unrealistic, she’s 15, and if the Daily mail has taught me anything, it’s that all 15 year old girls are drugged up whores on their second abortion) for absolutely no discernible point. Oh no actually, there was one point, a shit joke, no literally, a joke about shit, that’s the entire culmination of the subplot, a joke about poo. Not great writing there either.
Away from the good and the bad, there’s some stuff which I’d describe as bearable but a missed opportunity. Matthew Vaughan directed the first Kick-Ass but only acted as producer on this one, instead Jeff Wadlow took the reins and while not exactly doing a bad job, I can’t help but feel he’s delivered a watered down version of the original. There’re a couple of flashes of brilliance, but they’re the exception rather than the rule. The action is competent, but gone are the interesting backing track choices or break neck fight scenes, the humour is far too puerile too often, gone are the little scenes of henchman chatting or arguing to provide some characterisation and make their deaths mean something. That’s a real shame considering there were so many wasted scenes, especially the ‘Hit Girl gets domesticated at High School’ stuff that just dragged and ultimately had no point.
Please do not get me wrong, Kick-Ass 2 is ok, it’s certainly watchable, and as with its predecessor, when compared to the plethora of superhero films released ad nauseam these days, it provides an interesting and different take on the superhero persona. It also carries on the story of Dave Lizewski nicely, with some genuine character development. It’s just that as a film, Kick-Ass 2 only exists thanks to the brilliance of the original Kick-Ass, and as such can’t avoid being compared, and when compared, Kick-Ass 2 is infinitely inferior, large amounts of time wasted, some awful missteps with the jokes to the point of being an embarrassment, and very little is added to the franchise as a whole.
It’s a massive shame, because as with the original, a graphic novel was released at the same time, and the graphic novel version of Kick-Ass 2 is fantastic, absolutely fantastic, probably too brutal to have been realised on screen, but even a watered down version would have been far better than the film we got.
For me, this is now it, I don’t regret seeing Kick-Ass 2, nor do I regret that it was made, but the franchise for me is done, finished, over and out. Word is there’s going to be a third instalment, my none-existent god do I hope that isn’t the case, because while Kick-Ass 2 just about stumbles over the line of acceptability without damaging the original, a third one may well be the nudge that sends the entire franchise into free fall, and the last thing we need kick-Ass to do is become another fucking Wolverine.
Written by Sam ‘fully intend to raise my children to be super villains’ McKinstrie
Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP
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