Back in 2010 Kick Ass arrived and it was a breath of fresh air, subverting the standard superhero movie clichés while being a pretty darn good (sort of) superhero movie in its own right. Kick Ass 2 then arrives on a wave of anticipation and has a lot to live up to, and aside from some stumbles, it mostly succeeds in providing what most sequels deal with; escalation.
Dave Liew (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is still patrolling the streets as the titular hero, and is finding that he has inspired a plethora of ordinary citizens to don costumes and help out those in need. Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) however has given up the superhero life and is attempting to fit in at high school, and Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is determined to kill Kick Ass after he killed his father at the end of the first film, and is becoming ever more villainous adopting a moniker that I probably can’t type on a family website. Filling the Big Daddy shaped hole in the film is Jim Carrey as Colonel Star and Stripes, head of Justice Forever, a band of like minded vigilantes who Kick Ass joins in the hope of becoming the world’s first super hero team. D’Amico, meanwhile, is creating a super villain team whose name, again, I definitely can’t type on a family website.
While the film doesn’t feel as fresh as it did first time around, the energy is still there which helps gloss over the fact that for most of the running time we’re treading water and being introduced to new characters rather than advancing the plot much. The three separate threads rarely intertwine and we have three completely disparate plots for the first two thirds: Kick Ass and the Justice Forever team, the villainous exploits of the Motherf***er (I’ve given up trying to not say his name) and Hit Girl’s foray into high school. It’s fortunate that at least two of these threads are absolutely excellent, with the Justice Forever team being a lot of fun, watching them take down a variety of criminals and ne’er do wells never getting old. And the Motherf****er trying to be the greatest villain ever, despite being less than impressive gets a lot of mileage. It’s a shame that Hit Girl’s side of the story is flat out bizarre and doesn’t have a place in this type of film; a Mean Girls-esque high school drama that doesn’t go anywhere surprising and the outcome of which is never in doubt. Happily when she comes back into the fold, Moretz is able to bring back that old Hit Girl magic.
Mintz-Plasse is again perfect as the out of his depth bad guy, who wants to be bad but just doesn’t have the know-how or expertise. It makes for a winning performance that even when he’s carrying out dastardly deeds you can’t help but wish the best for him. Carrey (in his limited screen time) is very good as the Colonel, mining similar ground as Nicolas Cage did in the first, i.e. the unhinged superhero, but adding enough layers so that he’s not just Big Daddy 2.0. In fact, if there’s anyone that suffers its Kick Ass himself, becoming somewhat of a bystander in his own film; Taylor-Johnson does get some good material but it’s few and far between and he mostly just reacts to the things the other characters are doing than have any character arc of his own.
The film still has that anarchic energy and the Daily Mail baiting language and violence, both of which are again very cartoonish in nature (except for one moment that’s played for laughs, but has a distinctly unpleasant undertone to it) and by the end when all the threads come together in a finale that’s so bonkers you’ll forgive the earlier missteps. The very Dark Knight Rises denouement is filled with the kind of thing you’ve come to see, and while it doesn’t top the previous films finale for sheer craziness, it’s still an exceptional action sequence and one that (surprisingly) has more emotion behind it than most big budget superhero films.
Not as good as the first film but not too shy of it either. It’s slightly unfocused and messy, but it fits with the tone and somehow it manages to make it work.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
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