Critic’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5.
Rated R by the MPAA (and “Unacceptable” by Jim Carrey)
Directed by Jeff Wadlow. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, John Leguizamo and Jim Carrey. Opens Fri., Aug. 16 at area theater.
As Kick-Ass 2 opens, two years have passed since the events of the first film and it would appear that not much has happened. Sure, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has hung up his Kick-Ass costume and is instead slumping in the back of his high school classes pondering his purpose in life, but otherwise he seems much like we left him. A host of other self-proclaimed super heroes have cropped up around the city in Kick-Ass’s absence, and soon they’re inspiring Dave to return to his old ways. He recruits high school freshman Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz), aka Hit-Girl, to whip him into shape and become his partner in serving up justice. Hit-Girl already ditches school every day to train, so it’s not a huge burden.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Kick-Ass, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has renounced his heroic superego Red Mist to become the world’s first Super-villain, known as The Motherfucker. With the help of his loyal employee, Javier (John Leguizamo), the bumbling, infantile bad guy is amassing an evil team to enact revenge on Kick-Ass for killing D’Amico’s father with a bazooka.
From the start there are some pretty basic questions, the most important being: why now? Why exactly did Kick-Ass quit for two years? And why did Chris D’Amico wait to exact his revenge? Also, how is it that Mindy’s guardian, a detective, doesn’t know that she’s skipping school or that she has a secret training facility?? Then again, the cops are useless in films like this — except when they’re arresting the good guys, that is.
So you’d think the primary conflict in the film would be between Kick-Ass and The Motherfucker, right? Too bad Kick-Ass doesn’t even know The Motherfucker and his legion are a thing until three-quarters of the way through the movie. Until then, Kick-Ass 2 focuses on Mindy as she tries to keep her promise to her guardian, Marcus, by retiring Hit-Girl and trying to be a normal teenage girl. Although it’s an interesting avenue to explore, and frankly, Hit-Girl is the most interesting character in the whole movie, it’s just weird for the protagonist and antagonist to not interact for the vast majority of the film.
As for Hit-Girl’s storyline, I thought it was interesting to take a girl who was raised to be a cut-throat assassin and put her in a normal environment. I didn’t think it was interesting to make every other single high school girl dumb, vapid, slutty, catty, and/or manipulative. Is there some rule in Hollywood that only one girl in a movie can be not completely horrible?
On the flipside, I wish I could say I liked Moretz’s acting as much as I like (the idea of) Hit-Girl. Perhaps she was making a choice to be a little more exaggerated in her facial expressions, (this is a comic book movie, after all), but given that most of the other actors don’t do likewise, and because I’ve seen her do the same thing in other roles, I don’t think that’s the case. I wish Moretz would stop “smizing” and snarling and just say her lines.
As you may have heard, Jim Carrey (who plays the minor character Colonel Stars and Stripes) recently denounced Kick-Ass 2 for being too violent. I would certainly agree that it is hyper-violent and some of the violence did disturb me momentarily, but it’s nothing to get all worked up about. I mean, seriously, has Carrey ever seen Game of Thrones? (The Red Wedding still puts a pit in my stomach.)
Perhaps the reason the violence doesn’t shock as much as Carrey indicated is because it goes to extremes and then peters out for a comparatively lukewarm climax. In fairness, though, it was going to be tough to top having a female hulk of a character called Mother Russia murders 10 cops without breaking a sweat.
Kick-Ass 2 does have some cool action sequences, can be funny and ridiculous, and is often fun to watch despite the plot deficiencies. The dark humor in The Motherfucker’s rise is on the mark and is one of better executed subplots of the film. And Mintz-Plasse is perfect in the role. But that can’t cover for the most significant problem with the film: a lack of growth or change in the characters, who, for the most part, end up where they began. Just like the audience …