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Friday, August 16, 2013

‘Kick-Ass 2’ Not Quite As Hard Hitting



Kick-Ass 2:  3 out of 5

Dave Lizewski: There's no room for punks in suits, just real heroes who can really kick ass.

Maybe one of the more unlikely comic properties to get a sequel, Kick-Ass was produced almost completely as an independent film, only to have its distribution rights bought and successfully turned into a big screen event.  Unfortunately, while the Comic Con and geek crowd showed up for Kick-Ass, the film did not turn into the huge financial success many would have hoped for.  Thanks to cult success, cut to a few years later and we now have Kick-Ass 2; a Universal Studios production that allows audiences to return to the comic property that meshes bright, colorful, superhero theatrics with a  deconstruction of the genre.  While entertaining to an extent, the only problem is the very thought of Kick-Ass 2 being a Universal Studios production.  The irreverence is certainly still intact, but a lot of the wit and edge is missing this time around.  That said, I had more fun than expected during this “superheroes who swear” sequel.



Kick-Ass 2 begins with only so much time having passed between this film and the first, despite Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Dave/Kick-Ass and Chloe Grace Moretz’s Mindy/Hit-Girl looking noticeably older.  At this point, Kick-Ass has attempted to hang up his costume, but still has the desire to protect the people of the city by fighting crime.  Hit-Girl, is less inclined, as she is trying stay “retired” based on the instructions of her new parental unit (following the death of Big Daddy), Marcus (Morris Chestnut).  Ultimately, Hit-Girl does her best to train Kick-Ass into being an actual talented fighter and not just highly resilient to pain, given his bruised nerve-endings, but still leaves the crime fighting to him, while she deals with the pressures of being a high school girl.

I should note that Kick-Ass 2, much like the first, is based upon the comic series by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.  The first film was sort of developed at the same time the film was being developed, but this sequel more or less works with material that was already written.  This is not to say that knowing some of the plot beats ruined the experience, but knowing what events could transpire versus what actually does certainly makes it telling what kind of restraint writer/director Jeff Wadlow took in order to bring this film to life.


Mindy Macready: Act like a bitch, get slapped like a bitch.

There is definitely a novelty element to the first film that is lacking this time around.  Hit-Girl being an 11-year-old girl makes her character far more entertaining to watch and as much as Moretz wants to use bug eyes to express her confusion over what it’s like to be a normal high school girl, it does not compare to a little girl slaughtering a room full of mob goons.  Similarly, the whole film feels like it has less of a purpose outside of being an entertaining feature.  That Kick-Ass 2 is entertaining (which I found it to be) is certainly not a bad thing, but it has little going for it, aside from the fact that it is an R-rated superhero movie, which is rare.  

There was a lot to digest in the themes of the first film (and first comic), with regards to what it means to be an ordinary person fighting crime, why taking on the role of a vigilante is highly dangerous, and what that violence can really mean.  This was all handled, while being a super colorful action-comedy, with lots of fun to deal out to its audience.  Kick-Ass 2, on the other hand, strips away a lot of that subversiveness that makes this series have something to say.  While there are certain themes and motifs present, which are mainly retreads from the first film, this sequel is fine with just standing as a pure action-comedy, even though the comedy aspect will only entertain to the extent that the viewer enjoys watching these actors work (along with bodily function gags).  The action is solid though.  The first film did not have a whole lot of action, but when it did, it was brutal.  Kick-Ass 2 may not have some of the same visual inventiveness that director Matthew Vaughn brought the first film, but Wadlow and his crew have constructed some pretty slam-bang action sequences that are never confusing and always appear painful for those involved.


To say a little more about the plot, the main thrust comes from two different characters.  One is the return of Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who returns as Chris D’Amico, son of a mob boss who was murdered by Kick-Ass.  This time around Chris has ditched his Red Mist persona in favor of becoming the world’s first supervillain, known as The MotherF***er, with a sole objective of taking down Kick-Ass and all that he stands for.  The other notable character is another vigilante/born-again Christian known as Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), who has assembled his own team of superheroes and invites Kick-Ass to join in.

Colonel Stars and Stripes: I try to have fun. Otherwise, what's the point?

With this in mind, let me get to the actors, staring with Jim Carrey.  Colonel Stars and Stripes is obviously the character to replace Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy this time around, in terms of a larger than life supporting role played by a notable actor.  What is surprising is how in control Carrey and the filmmakers are with this character.  He is the definition of supporting character, as ‘the Colonel’ is only in a few scenes and Carrey, despite participating in some violent moments, is incredibly restrained in his performance (possibly only outdone by a low-key John Leguizamo, as Chris’ bodyguard).  There has been plenty of commotion about Carrey backing out of promoting the film (based on his own personal feelings and not the quality of the actual film), but putting that aside, he gives a strong supporting performance that works well into what the film is actually trying to say, when you really can boil it down to its themes, which seem weakly represented by everything else in the film.


As far as the other actors go, Aaron Taylor-Johnson gets the majority to work with, given that he is Kick-Ass and he handles himself well enough.  While having grown up and making it seem obvious that he’s not the dweeb that this film really needs him to be from a physical standpoint, I still see a lot of strong and goofy line readings from him that make the film continue to seem somewhat grounded when it needs to be.  Moretz is decent here.  It comes down to how the character was originally designed versus the actual age of the character now, but simply having a potty mouth and a different perspective on life than others does not quite allow her to coast by, despite how talented she may be.  I should note that I enjoyed the enthusiasm of a lot of the supporting actors quite a bit, including Clark Duke and Donald Faison as fellow wannabe superheroes.  Lastly, with Mintz-Plasse, it just depends on how much you like seeing this actor taken to the extreme.  He has come a long way since McLovin in Superbad, but I can’t say I didn’t enjoy his antics here, along with his insistence on naming other villains via racial profiling.

Kick-Ass 2 feels like the logical conclusion of a film that did not need a sequel, but was still given enough support from fans and those who believed more could be drawn from the same well.  It is average overall, despite some cool moments in terms of action and humorous moments based around the performances.  I would still argue it is a character-driven film, but the characters do feel a little weaker and the themes and witty/violent edge is less apparent this time around.  Still, if I have to deal with the more mainstream version of Kick-Ass, I can’t say that I did not enjoy myself, as I think the film had more going for it than expected, even if that did not lead to it going to the dark extremes that the comic aimed for.

Mindy Macready: Robin wishes he was me.




 
Aaron is a writer/reviewer for WhySoBlu.com.  Follow him on Twitter @AaronsPS3.
He also co-hosts a podcast,
Out Now with Aaron and Abe, available via iTunes or at HHWLOD.com.

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