Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Kick-Ass, though flawed in a number of ways, was still quite interesting in the way that it tried to be different. The heroes were motivated in some ways to do good, but Big Daddy had no problem embracing what he would have to become to achieve his goals. He knew what he had done to his daughter but, unlike his former partner Marcus, had no regrets about the choices he made. He had a single purpose: bring down Frank D'Amico's underworld empire.
In the end, though Big Daddy died violently on a live broadcast, his goal was met when Dave Lizewsky (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka Kick-Ass, killed D'Amico by shooting him out a window with a bazooka. Kick-Ass the superhero came into his own and, in truth, really reached the end of his ark. Mindy McCready (Chloe Grace-Moretz), otherwise known as Hit Girl, reached hers as well, avenging the deaths of both her mom and her dad at D'Amico's hand.
There was one factor left unfulfilled: Frank's son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who was torn originally between following in his father's footsteps or, when given the chance, becoming Red Mist, a true superhero. As hinted at the end of Kick-Ass, D'Amico becomes a super villain after his dad literally becomes the name of his secret identity.
Still, even though I even felt that I would love to see more of these characters, the truth was that movie was good as it was. I had no doubt that Mindy would never become a normal high school girl, but Dave realizing that, while he actually could be a superhero, maybe it was better not to be just made a whole lot of sense.
The movie did well enough for a sequel, but there was a problem. Chloe Grace-Moretz, unlike many actors in these movies, was actually about the age Hit Girl was supposed to be. The shock mainly came from her being such a young girl talking, and acting, like an adult. It was one of the main reasons why Marcus was so upset with her father. Kick-Ass came out in 2010, while Kick-Ass 2 came out in 2013. That, when it comes to pre- and early-teen actors, can pose a bit of a problem, as seen on shows like The Walking Dead and The Americans where certain child actors suddenly begin to mature.
Combine that with a different director (although Matthew Vaughn was still involved in the writing) and a complete change of tone and you have a sequel while, not awful in a movie in its own right, certainly feels quite different than one would have expected. While the original is like an edgy comic making off-color jokes in an ironic manner, this is like someone almost like Michael Scott trying to repeat the same joke in front of his staff.
Since her father's death, Mindy has been placed under the care of Marcus (Morris Chestnut), who is trying to make her be a normal girl. Instead, she has continued her training and life as Hit Girl on her own, rarely showing up to school and hacking the school's computer to show she has perfect attendance. Dave realizes what she is doing and insists that she train him, and, though he still tends to get beaten up a lot, he does improve. That is, until Mindy is to be given an award for perfect attendance, which she of course is not there for.
Marcus eventually gets wind of what she is up to, grounds her and starts trying to make her fit in. Meanwhile, everyone thinks Dave was dating her, leading to his girlfriend Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) to break up with him. Meanwhile, Mindy decides to follow Marcus's wishes, leaving Kick-Ass to join Justice Forever, a group of superheroes led by a former mafia enforcer turned born-again Christian called Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Kick-Ass fits in, and realizes his best friend Marty (Clark Duke) has joined under his own character, Battle Guy. He also finds a new kind-of love interest in Night Bitch (Lindy Booth).
While Mindy gets on with trying to fit in with a clique of popular girls led by cheerleader Brooke (Claudia Lee) and Kick-Ass fights crime, Chris evolves into his super villain persona called The Mother Fucker. He uses the money he inherits from the untimely deaths of both his father and his mother to put together a crew of criminals with the stated goal of taking everything away from Kick-Ass before delivering a final blow.
While Chris's plan, despite his incompetence, almost works, like any good superhero story the tragedy just makes Dave stronger, as does the travails of dealing with high school encourage Mindy to pursue her life as Hit Girl. Together, along with the other true superheroes of the city, they square off in a final confrontation with Chris and his gang.
In many ways I don't mind the change in tone. While the first had its dark moments, it was largely a satire of the genre, both in the fact that trying to do what real superheroes does will probably only get you killed while, on the other hand, the real superheroes are people you don't necessarily want to become. With Dave returning to his secret life it is understandable that the road becomes darker, with there being dire consequences for both the death of Frank D'Amico and his continued pursuit of bringing his own kind of justice. A common theme in the comics is that the hero has lost everything - his family, his friends, even his planet - to become what he is.
Juxtapose this with Hit Girl, who has already lost everything for the most part, trying to live a normal life. I would have expected to have more scenes of her trying to reconcile who she was, possibly to comic effect, but little effort is made to have this part of the movie be interesting. Instead, we get typical mean girls and jocks. Her revenge on them is gross, though amusing, but since she is already who she is there is not anywhere for the character to grow.
While parts of Dave's story work, director Jeff Wadlow seems unsure how to commit to it. This is the biggest problem, and not just the horrible CGI when it comes to a number of bodily fluids. Personally, the whole problem with how to handle the material comes in the form of a scene where Chris finds out who Night Bitch really is and goes to her house to rape her. The joke is, predictably, that he's not up to doing the deed. Wadlow doesn't seem to know how to play this as the horrific act that it is or as edgy comedy, leaving what happens to her rather vague - although the dialogue hints that they just beat her up rather than doing anything else.
In one of the major action sequences that follows this one we have one of Chris's henchpeople, Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) single-handedly take on a good portion of New York's finest. The effects are cool, the action well-done, but again it seems as if Wadlow does not know if he wants to present this as over-the-top satire, showing what real villains would do rather than cartoon ones, or if he just has some fetish for seeing a bunch of cops die.
There are still some nice, and quite brutal, action scenes that that would have fit in the first movie, and the final showdown between the heroes and the villains is quite exciting. Jim Carrey, often known for going way over the top, underplays Colonel Stars and Stripes. Where most other movies would have gone for the cliche of him really being a villain, he turns out to be what he says he is, and his ultimate fate connects in an emotional manner that is missing from much of the rest of the movie.
Both Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace-Moretz remain comfortable in their rolls, but Christopher Mitz-Plasse is unfortunately saddled with playing Chris D'Amico as a spoiled brat rather than as an heir-apparent that just wants to be taken seriously. All the depth that Chris had in the first movie is gone, replaced by what could be called Bud Bundy in bondage gear. His coming out as a super villain could have should have been much more.
Same could be said for Kick-Ass 2. I still enjoyed a large part of it, but when it stumbles, both in technical direction and in tone, it really brings the movie to a halt. While Vaughn has said he wants to do a prequel and another sequel, so far nothing has been rumored and, given that this sequel was a box office flop even on its modest budget, I don't think anything will. It's a lesson that sometimes it is best to just leave well enough alone.
Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
Time: 103 minutes
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace-Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey
Director: Jeff Wadlow