Review: Wadlow's 'Kick-Ass 2' Goes Through the Hard-Hitting Motions
by Jeremy Kirk
August 16, 2013
Remember back in 2010 - it wasn't that long ago - when Kick-Ass surprised everyone with its subversive but comical humor and even more taboo but energetic and badass action? The title was appropriate. A lot of taming can happen in just three years. Kick-Ass 2 takes its title from, well, the fact that it's a sequel, and it's loaded with the same subversive humor and hard-hitting, adolescent violence. But, like most studio sequels, all that worked so well with the original is delivered with minimal creativity and a severe lack of energy. The goings-on here are rarely fun, and Kick-Ass 2 is satisfied going through the familiar motions.
Following the events of Kick-Ass, the world of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has changed. Masked "superheroes" are sprouting up all over the city thanks in large part to Dave's/Kick-Ass' heroic actions. It doesn't matter that it's Kick-Ass' friend, Mindy/Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), who's the real ass-kicker when it comes to fighting crime. But, as Kick-Ass embraces the superhero movement and the colorful characters he's now able to team up with - including a show-stealing, bang-up job by Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes - Mindy, now a high schooler, finds herself at odds with the alter ego.
It also doesn't help that Dave's actions in Kick-Ass help bring forth the world's first super villain. Dressed in black leather, wielding dual pistols, and calling himself The Motherfucker, Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse - what's with all these three-word names?) vows a reign of destruction along with revenge.
Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf) takes over directing duties from Matthew Vaughn, and while he's got the crudeness and subversion a follow-up to Kick-Ass would require, it never has the visual flare or stylishly cool high-points Vaughn film had. Kick-Ass 2 never really devolves into being ugly. Even when things get bloody, it comes off trivialThe characters would have to be somewhat lifelike for that, and the Kick-Ass franchise has definitely worked its way into full-on comic book territory. The police only seem capable of providing collateral damage to all the action, and even Mindy's police officer foster father (Morris Chestnut) shows up as a required character.
Who knows, though, if Vaughn could have even done much with the aimless wandering Kick-Ass 2's screenplay - also written by Wadlow - does for a bulk of the middle. Mindy's decision to hang up the Hit-Girl outfit early on isn't too revealing. A hero's battling with and eventual turn on their superhero ego is a staple of Part 2s. They've been done better. Watching the girl's Hell that is becoming a popular, innocent,high school girl is as dull as Kick-Ass 2 gets, not a horrible decision if it didn't take up so much of the film's time. Without much of a payoff, it just sits there, and makes you realize its only purpose is to give Hit-Girl something to do while Kick-Ass is finding his own way with a team.
Fortunately, that side of the Kick-Ass 2 coin offers a little bit more for excitement. Most of those colorful characters that make up the superheroes of this world are at the very least intriguing, even if some of them do look like rejects from Mystery Men. Donald Faison as the baseball bat-wielding Dr. Gravity and, of course, Carrey are the highlights. Sadly, when superheroes antics go from funny voices and cute delivery to the weapons they carry in their holsters, it ends up being less exciting somehow.
The action in Kick-Ass 2 is slow, choreographed, rarely ever moving the intensity meter up more than a few notches. That lack of style the franchise lost between directors is noticeable in just about every movement Kick-Ass 2 makes, chief among them being the action beats. The three storylines - Hit-Girl's high school days, Kick-Ass' hero movement, and The Motherfucker's rise to supervillain status - are clunky, bouncing off of each other for 2/3 of the film, but the action scattered throughout drops without much memorability. It isn't until the final act when the action culminates in an all-out brawl, superheroes versus supervillains, but by then, the wind has left the bag.
Taylor-Johnson and Moretz fill their respective roles rather comfortably. That whiny voice Taylor-Johnson gives Dave is as suitable as the bass that kicks in when he's playing Kick-Ass. Moretz drops F-bombs as casually and as menacingly at 15 as she did when she was 12. Take from that whatever you will. Neither bring anything new, though. Their performances here end up being just as adequate and without too much effort as everything else at work in Kick-Ass 2.
It's a simple matter of the film playing by ear. Kick-Ass didn't work as well as it did because it loaded itself down with crass dialogue and excessively violent action. It not only got by on style and energy, those were the aspects of Kick-Ass that pulled the entire package of awesomeness together. The writer/director takes everything learned from the original and mimics it the best he can for Kick-Ass 2. The film plays student to the master that was Kick-Ass, and, unlike Hit-Girl, its skills just aren't that honed.
Jeremy's Rating: 5.5 out of 10
Follow Jeremy on Twitter - @JeremyKKirk