“Kick Ass” was one of the most rebellious movies (let alone comic book movies) to be released in the past few years. Unlike other movies of its ilk, it refused to play it safe and managed to balance out the humor and violence almost perfectly to where we enjoyed its gleefully dark and subversive tone. Despite the fact that “Kick Ass” only made about $48 million at the box office domestically, its cult following on DVD and Blu-ray helped ensure that a sequel would be made. Overall, it adds to the rebellious tone of “Kick Ass” that a sequel got made to it at all. While it didn’t get the same sized audience as “The Dark Knight,” “The Avengers” or “Iron Man,” nothing was going to stop this unique masked hero’s story from continuing.
Time has passed since Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) retired their alter egos of Kick Ass and Hit Girl to go to high school and lead normal lives. Dave, however, finds himself getting bored and soon finds himself wanting to get back to his superhero fighting ways, and he gets Mindy to train him to be as powerful a fighter as she is. This serves as a reminder that Dave, while emerging as a hero at the end of “Kick Ass,” still wasn’t much of a fighter and really got lucky with a bazooka.
Mindy, however, is pressured by her new guardian, Sergeant Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut), to retire her crime fighting ways. She reluctantly does so even though everything inside of her cries to protect the city from law breaking scum. Although we know she won’t stay away from being Hit Girl forever, it allows the filmmakers to place her in an environment she is completely alien to: high school. That is, when she’s not skipping school and going to her and her dad’s secret hideout to hide from the world.
Meanwhile, Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is still seething with rage at Kick Ass who killed his father in the previous film and he vows revenge. Unfortunately for him, his mother ended up throwing his Red Mist costume away, and he is forced to find a new masked persona. Upon finding some S&M clothing his mother, unbeknownst to Chris, had hidden from sight, he uses it to craft a costume that will reinvent himself as the world’s first supervillain. He soon calls himself The Mother Fucker, and he hires his own gang of ex-convicts and sociopaths to bring down Kick Ass.
The first half of “Kick Ass 2” is a lot of fun as it manages to maintain its predecessor’s incendiary fun as it found humor in its ultra-violent tale of crime fighting and vengeance. Dave ends up joining a gang called Justice Forever which has among its members Doctor Gravity (Donald Faison), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), and Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). With this group of people, Dave comes to see how his alter ego of Kick Ass has had a major effect on ordinary citizens. Each of these characters is unique in their own way, and I liked how they were eager to help people more than anything else. Of course, their ways of helping people can seem a bit unorthodox.
As with the first movie, Chloë Grace Moretz steals the show as Hit Girl. Seeing this unusual superhero get back to her ass kicking ways is something we have been waiting all summer to see. Some of the best moments in “Kick Ass 2” come when she is forced to attend the hell that is high school and try to fit in with the popular girls who are infinitely spoiled. Seeing Hit Girl’s reaction to them showing her a video of the latest generic boy band was alone worth the price of admission. Moretz continues to play this character with a superlative confidence that sets her apart from other actresses her age.
While part of me wished that Dave was a little more past his socially awkward ways than in the first film, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still terrific as the character. Just when you thought he was a certified bad ass, it turns out that Dave and his alter ego of Kick Ass still have a lot of work to do to get to that level. The workout sessions Between Johnson and Moretz feel quite painful, and they make for a great team throughout. Johnson actually has quite the role to work with here as Dave goes through the highs of being a superhero to experiencing the terrible lows that come with the real world, and it feels like his performance here will be one of the more underrated performances of 2013. Plus, he ends up wearing a t-shirt that I would just love to add to my collection (you’ll know it when you see it).
Christopher Mintz-Plasse still has fun making Chris D’Amico a hopelessly spoiled son of a mob boss, but his character also takes a much darker turn this time around. Still, Plasse portrays him broadly to where we realize that he’s not quite as evil as the company he surrounds himself with. While Chris is far more unlikable this time around, we still get a kick out of watching Plasse continually stumble around in an attempt to be cool. He also gets nice support from John Leguizamo as his right hand man Javier.
But for me, one of the real highlights of “Kick Ass 2” was Jim Carrey who played Sal Bertolinni (a.k.a. Colonel Stars and Stripes). Now Carrey could have upstaged all the other actors in this film if he wasn’t careful, but he really comes across as a team player here. No one should have to be reminded of what a fine actor Carrey is. For crying out loud, they should have handed him the damn Oscar for “Man on the Moon!” As Colonel Stars and Stripes, he gives us a character that could have been a one-dimensional joke, but he succeeds in making him so much more than that. When you put Carrey in the right role, he can perform wonders.
I am bummed that Matthew Vaughn didn’t come back as director for this one or even for next year’s follow up to “X-Men: First Class.” What’s his excuse anyway? Oh well, Jeff Wadlow, who previously directed “Never Back Down” and “Cry Wolf,” takes over directorial duties on this sequel, and he manages for the most part to balance out the humor and violence presented here. Wadlow, however, is not quite as successful towards the movie’s finale where the comic energy loses steam and things become more nasty than funny. Still, I think “Kick Ass 2” is better than most film critics have made it out to be.
This sequel does suffer a bit as it is a little more conventional than its predecessor. You come to have a good idea of how things are going to conclude which robs the story of its suspense at times. I was also bummed to see Dave’s girlfriend, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), get the Elisabeth Shue “Karate Kid Part II” treatment as her character was thrown to the curb for no reason other than the fact that the filmmakers didn’t know what to do with her character. Seriously, would Katie really be that quick to dump a superhero?
I also would have liked it if The Mother Fucker’s group of supervillains were a little more developed as characters. We get to know the vigilantes of the Justice Forever group in a lot more detail such as Colonel Stars and Stripes who was a mob enforcer before he became a born again Christian (don’t use the lord’s name in vain around him). I also have to say that Miranda Swendlow/Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) is quite the sexy superhero. But with villains like Mother Russia, they come across as a bit too one-dimensional and it feels like moments for pure satire are really missed out on here.
But when all is said and done, I very much enjoyed “Kick Ass 2” for what it was. There’s no beating Moretz as Hit Girl, Johnson makes you feel the pain of doing those one-arm pull ups, and Carrey is a welcome addition to the franchise. Here’s hoping that there’s a “Kick Ass 3” in the future. I’m still having a lot of fun with this series, and there is still a future worth exploring for these characters.
By the way, there is a post-credits sequence which spells out the fate of a certain character. It’s a little lame, but it’s there if you want to wait for it.
* * * ½ out of * * * *