Ordinary citizens have put their day-to-day duties aside to become DIY superheroes again in ‘Kick-Ass 2’, but this time there’s more of them. In 2010, we were introduced to Dave Lizewski who, after the loss of his mother, donned a green and yellow suit and became Kick-Ass. Based on the Mark Millar graphic novel, it was a box office smash, satirically referencing the overdone superhero genre whilst being heralded as a worthy comic book film adaptation in its own right with unique characters and an interesting plot. Three years later, Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) wants his sequel and teams up with Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to bring a squad of super villains to justice. Back with a new director in Jeff Wadlow who also took writing duties, this smart caper is a good bit of fun, despite misjudging the violent streak, and sees its titular lead fall under the shadow of the brilliant Hit-Girl who really should have her own series of films instead.
We revisit Dave and Mindy Macready a.k.a Hit-Girl at high school where they appear to have put their crime fighting pasts behind them, even though Kick-Ass legacy is still very much at large with a new brood of wannabe heroes announcing themselves to the city. The teen flick/superhero movie crossover works very effectively with Mindy, taking influence for the former from the likes of Mean Girls and offering great character development as she tries to be popular amongst the cool kids but deep down knows she should be Hit-Girl, out beating up the bad guys carrying the torch without the guidance from her father, Big Daddy. This arc is where the piece is at its strongest and the some of the scenes in the school are excellent, whilst Kick-Ass himself skulks moodily on the sidelines like a Tesco Value Spiderman. Meanwhile, rich kid Chris D’Amico whose superhero persona was Red Mist previously is now parentless (notice a pattern here?) and out to cause destruction under his hilarious new villainous alias The Motherfucker.
Forces of good and evil collide in what becomes a unnecessarily bloody conclusion, with strangely more violence than many of the comic book films it pays homage to. The formula to mix comedy and violence has been mastered in the past by filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Roberto Rodriguez, and the OTT elements are used frequently here with limbs sliced and eyes gouged out at will, but for some reason it doesn’t sit right in this picture. The blend of influences don’t quite gel and the ambition to be a teen coming of age tale, superhero battle and slapstick horror comedy gets messy in the latter half and I feel it loses sight of its origins, possibly down to the change of personnel.
Chloe Grace Moretz steals the film in the performance stakes, with both alter egos equally as convincing. Her badass attitude is a joy to watch and she delivers a few cracking lines with every offensive outburst equating to another dollar in Mindy’s overflowing swear jar. She balances this superbly with a hurting adolescent missing her father and it is a touching portrayal. Taylor-Johnson continues where he left off, carrying off the geek role suitably, but is second fiddle from start to finish whereas Christopher Mintz-Plasse is very enjoyable as the baddie. His eccentricity fits perfectly with the part and its hard to imagine anyone pulling off The Motherfucker in the same way. The veteran substitution from the original sees Nic Cage departing which can only be a good thing and Jim Carrey stepping in as leader of organisation Justice Forever, Colonel Stars and Stripes which is probably the most longwinded superhero name ever. His inclusion offers the narrative some oomph in the middle section, and this will count as another high point in his recent return to form but he is unfortunately terribly underused. There seemed to be depth to his character that sadly is only really glossed over.
The follow up stays true enough to the franchise stylistically with quirky graphic inserts and introduces a host of wacky new faces for us to enjoy, but it is the development of Mindy and Chris that stand out, leaving behind the eponymous bore than is Kick-Ass. Perhaps a new instalment will give Moretz further room for development in a leading role, which would definitely be worth a look in and give the series a much needed fresher edge. Nonetheless, this chapter duly fills its running time with enough action-packed sequences and wit to satisfy as a pleasing popcorn movie.