Kick-Ass created a storm of controversy back in 2010 due to, amongst other things, its ultra-violent, potty-mouthed, pre-teen heroine… and became a minor hit and cult favourite in the process. The film offered a fresh take on an increasingly tiresome and overcrowded comic book genre and introduced the world to the not-so-super-powered vigilantes Kick Ass and Hit Girl.
Fast forward to Kick-Ass 2 and we find Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor Johnson) has hung-up his green and yellow wetsuit and batons, supposedly for good. He leaves the street justice to the masked individuals who have followed his example, leaving him to lead a normal comic-and-girlfriend-centric teenage existence. Meanwhile, struggling to come to terms with the loss of her father and deal with the bitchy, Union J-obsessed cheerleaders at school, Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) continues to moonlight as Hit Girl and deliver crime its own ass, with typical foul mouthedness.
Equally dealing with some serious grief issues, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has now adopted the persona The Mother Fucker and has begun recruiting for his evil army, The Toxic Mega-Cunts, vowing to avenge his father who met his end at the bazooka wielding hands of Kick Ass in the previous film. When Hit Girl persuades Dave, in true Dark Knight fashion, that being a hero is in his nature and that his true identity is Kick Ass, he dons the rubber once more and begins a gruelling training regimen with his purple haired, filth-spewing Yoda at his side. But when Mindy is forced by her guardian into the hardest battle of her life, living as a normal 15 year old schoolgirl, Dave joins the vigilante group Justice Forever, led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and must deal with the impending threat of The Mother Fucker.
Kick-Ass 2 is looking to create as much controversy as the first outing and has already been disowned for its violence by Jim Carrey, who is refusing to support it. However, it’s the not the brutal fighting or expletive-vomiting, not-yet-legal heroine that is creating the whirlwind of criticism (for anyone who has the seen the first will know what to expect); this time we have an almost-rape scene that is delivered for laughs. Is rape funny? Of course not. But the scene is meant to depict the abominable and utterly pathetic nature of a certain mo-fo, and what better way than to make him the joke. The audience are to decide whether it’s funny or not.
Writer and director of the original film, Matthew Vaughn, takes a backseat producer role this time around; instead Jeff Wadlow of Never Back Down “fame” takes on scripting and directorial duties. It’s safe to say that the film suffers somewhat from the lack of Vaughn’s input but the witty one liners and cutting retorts are still present. What made the first film really stand out was just how unexpected it was: from the language to the violence; it was a literal ass-kicking. Of course, that effect has mellowed somewhat and the audience would be disappointed if these weren’t present.
Still, it’s difficult to be as surprised. Wadlow also makes the mistake of doing exactly what the first film took the piss out of so well: superhero films and the cliched, dead-parent origin stories and overly cheesy adages (“With no power, comes no responsibility”). However, the main problem for this is the original source material, which as far as comics go, was very dark and included some more particularly brutal deaths and not-almost rape. Thankfully, with certain omissions this has meant the tone stays dark, but not too dark, and fairly similar to the first.
Fear not: there are the normal levels of amputations, garroting, decapitations and fist-fighting one would expect after seeing the first, and we even have some lawn-mower and car related deaths for good measure. The fighting has certainly been upped and it’s impossible not to get a sudden rush during some stand-out battles on top of a moving van and in the baddies’ lair (all of course involving a certain pint-sized heroine). But for all the violence, gore and swearing, there is some serious heart to the flick, if only as well disguised as our heroes. The origin stories of some of the Justice Forever members are particularly touching; with a prime example of a couple called Remembering Tommy who are named after their missing son and a gay guy who refuses to wear a closet-like mask. There is the usual, slightly cliched theme of self-acceptance, but the true message is very much everyone has the power to be hero, even without superpowers. Yeah, yeah: corny. But it’s hard not buy into it, especially with the epic climax.
The main duo are as great as the first time round. Taylor-Johnson proves his hero mettle again (rumour has it he will be playing super-speedy Quicksilver in the next Avengers film) and is a likeable and vulnerable leading man. He is also ripped to shit. Moretz is just as likeable and brings some real heart as not just a hero, but a little girl who lost her father. One can’t help but feel every school needs a Mindy Macready. Jim Carrey is virtually unrecognisable and gives an inspired and delightfully unhinged performance as a con-cum-religious convert vigilante Colonel Stars and Stripes. It’s a real shame he isn’t given more screen time and given Carrey’s current stance, don’t expect a stand alone film any time soon.
With a title like Kick-Ass, of course it won’t win any awards. And yes, some of the charm and originality of the first is lost. But watching the absurdity of costumed people trash-talking and fighting has never been more fun. People who enjoyed the first should enjoy this one as it is much of the same, if only more expected. At the end of the day, these are comic book films about masked heroes, and so it’s still refreshing to see one that hasn’t been made ultra-realistic. As a famous comic villain once said, “Why so serious?” Perhaps he should have watched Kick-Ass 2. It’s well worth it.