Friday, September 6, 2013

Kick-Ass 2 Is What We’ve Seen Before: Only Bigger!

The Good: Moments of performance, Special effects
The Bad: Nothing stellar on the plot or character fronts.
The Basics: While not bad, Kick-Ass 2 adds little to the franchise that the viewer did not already know from the first film: most people can’t realistically be vigilantes and criminals will respond by escalating in kind.

As Summer Blockbuster Season transitions into the September Slump, I am catching up on the last few films I missed in theaters the last few weeks. While Oscar buzz has begun with Lee Daniels’ The Butler, I chose as the first film I would check out after my vacation: Kick-Ass 2. This weekend and most of September seems to be crammed with sequels, so I thought I I’d start with Kick-Ass 2. I vaguely remember watching Kick-Ass (reviewed here!) and I recall liking Super (reviewed here!) a bit more, at least for the concept and characters. So, I had no special attachment to the franchise going into Kick-Ass 2.

Kick-Ass 2 largely reinforces what Kick-Ass illustrated: vigilante justice is impractical and the response is an escalation of villainy from the criminal element. The crimes and scale are bigger in Kick-Ass 2 than they were in Kick-Ass, but in many ways the movies are so similar as to make one wonder why the studio bothered with a sequel. While the film begins with a fairly practical concept, it degenerates into an unrealistic bloodbath that is far from entertaining. The level of gore and violence that Kick-Ass 2 sinks to is unpleasant and it is easy enough to see why Jim Carrey, who plays Colonel Stars And Stripes for a brief time in the film, did not want to devote time to promoting the film.

Two years after Kick-Ass tried to stop crime on the streets, Dave Lizewski is a bored high school student, who yearns for the excitement of being a super hero. As it turns out, he inspired a whole wave of new heroes. So, he hunts down Mindy, who was Hit-Girl, and he begins getting trained by her. Despite getting the crap kicked out of him and Mindy’s guardian - her dead father’s partner, Marcus – getting wise to where she is skipping out to during school hours, Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl take to the streets again. At this time, Chris D’Amico – who has essentially been under house arrest – inadvertently kills his mother and starts plotting revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his father.

As Kick-Ass finds himself in the company of other vigilantes – starting with Dr. Gravity and then Justice Forever, which is led by Colonel Stars And Stripes – Chris turns his mother’s S&M gear into a new costume and takes on the persona The Motherfucker. The Motherfucker assembles a team – buying loyalty – of villains to go on a rampage through New York City. While Justice Forever begins doing good works, the Motherfucker and his team awkwardly begin to execute vengeful plans. The NYPD reacts by locking up all masked heroes and when the police come for Kick-Ass, Dave’s father takes the fall . . . a move that puts him at the mercy of the Motherfucker’s henchmen. While Mindy overcomes the mean girls in her school, she is unwilling and unable to aid Dave and Justice Forever, but in the wake of Dave’s father’s death, she returns to her costume to try to save New York from the Motherfucker’s violent reign and impending fertilizer-based bombs.

Right off the bat, I liked how Marcus Williams was not treated like a moron. He is a police detective and Mindy’s guardian, so the fact that he tails her and stops trusting her when she resumes her life as Hit-Girl seems both smart and realistic. He does not simply let Mindy walk all over him and he does his best to do right by his dead friend and that made him seem credible as both an individual and a police detective. That almost instantly sets Kick-Ass 2 apart from any number of movies with young people as the main protagonists; the adults in this film are hardly idiots and the young people are not nearly as smart as they think they are.

Kick-Ass 2 illustrates well the cycle of violence in the United States and how violence begets violence. Unfortunately, the film offers no real solutions. Instead, Kick-Ass 2 is the tale of escalation with no end in sight. While many of the vigilantes in Justice Forever have good ideas in their hearts, they quickly get sucked into the less noble struggle that quickly becomes Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl doing little more than fighting for survival.

What is notable in Kick-Ass 2 is the acting. Jim Carrey makes great use of his brief time on-screen to make Colonel Stars & Stripes seem unlike other characters he has played. There is no hint of, for example, his performance as The Riddler from Batman Forever (reviewed here!) in Colonel Stars And Stripes. Carrey’s part is to seem like a practical leader for Justice Forever and he does that well.

The young talent in Kick-Ass 2 does well. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Chloe Grace Moretz rule the film and they play across a wide array of realistic and deep emotions, while also managing to later credibly beat the living crap out of one another on screen. Mintz-Plasse makes Chris seem realistically angry after years of trying to get over his father’s death and Taylor-Johnson plays sorrow and loss when Dave’s father is killed with apparent ease. Chloe Grace Moretz (Hit-Girl) holds her own with Morris Chestnut (Marcus Williams) and reaffirms that she truly is one of the more impressive young talents on screen today.

Despite the talent involved, there is little new or truly engaging in Kick-Ass 2. For fans who want to see the film, there seems like there would be nothing lost seeing it on the small screen as opposed to shelling out for the theater experience. While it might be worthwhile for fans to watch on DVD, it’s not worth going out for.

For other superhero films, please check out my reviews of:
Marvel Cinematic Universe - Phase 1: Avengers Assemble
Thor: The Dark World
Man Of Steel


For other film reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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