Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo
Running time: 103mins
The lowdown: Back in 2010 Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass hit cinemas and hit them hard. Dazzling, daring and gloriously irresponsible, it revelled in and spun superhero conventions, adding a shotgun blast of smarts and more than a little heart. This energetic sequel recaptures the energetic brio of its five-star predecessor, but wayward plotting, character flip-flopping and budget restrictions bring it down a couple of notches. Yet, in a year when superheroes grew more brooding than ever, it’s good to have a multi-coloured splash of FU hurled at the silver screen.
The full verdict: If a Kick-Ass film is to be successful controversy is a must-have. Who would have guessed the furore this time would have been led by Jim Carrey, who appears as deranged, righteous vigilante Col. Stars & Stripes but has publically disowned the film in a muddled stand for gun control?
Carrey’s decision is even more bizarre when seeing Chloe Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl is now more Hit-Teen and the shock of seeing a gun-toting, c-word spouting 10-year old is gone.
But, fear not, there is still plenty of air-blueing language to flow alongside the red and brown bodily fluids that frequently splatter the screen. And as Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar retorted when asked about Carrey’s action, “Claims of too much violence in a Kick-Ass movie is akin to claiming a porno has too much nudity”.
Adapted from Millar and John Romita Jr’s inevitably more graphic comic series, this picks up sometime shortly after the original, with clunky exposition heavy dialogue acting as a “previously on Kick-Ass”.
Dave Lizewski (Taylor-Johnson) is still Kick-Ass, hitting the streets along with an ever-growing number of have-a-go-superheroes he’s inspired.
But, with Hit Girl Mindy promising her new guardian (Chestnut) she’ll forgo crime-fighting for sleepovers Dave finds himself in Justice Forever, a social club-cum-crime fighting team. Heading up JF is Col. Stars & Stripes (Carrey delivering a performance even more cracked than Nic Cage’s Big Daddy from the first movie).
Trouble arrives in the shape of Chris D’Amico (Mintz-Plasse), still seething over the explosive death of his dad at Kick-Ass’ hands and out for revenge.
Adopting the bad-guy moniker The Motherfucker, the leather n’ chains clad supervillain uses his lone superpower (“I’m rich as shit”) to buy himself a superbad gang, the only-say-it-once-to-avoid-an-18-cert Toxic Mega Cunts.
Writer/director Jeff Wadlow (stepping in for Vaughn) cannot strike the correct balance between message and mayhem, so themes around responsibility, consequence and escalation see Dave and Mindy frequently shedding the superhero persona only to readopt it when the story demands.
And the $28m budget relocates the comic’s epic Time Square showdown to The Motherfucker’s warehouse lair and doesn’t extend to depicting TMF’s plan to rain down destruction on New York City.
But crucially, KA2 still Ks A. Never Back Down director Wadlow imbues comic book fire into expertly choreographed, bone-crunching action scenes, favouring martial arts over the original’s bullet ballets. A gory face-off between henchwoman Mother Russia and NY’s finest is likely to go down as one of 2013’s best big screen moments.
While Dave is off on his superhero journey, Mindy’s high school adventures allow for Mean Girls inspired fun as she shows down with superbitchy rich girls, climaxing in a Jackass style punchline. And in what other film will a ninja teen find herself having a “moment” to X-Factor boy band Union J?
Mintz-Plasse delivers comic relief alongside gleeful anarchy. Repeatedly lapsing into racial stereotypes when naming his crew (Black Death, Genghis Carnage), gimping up in leather and chains, and discovering the pressures of being a supervillain when it comes to sexual assault (in a scene that just about gets away with it), he delivers the cut to the bone thrill of the first instalment.
But, to anchor all this requires a character of Big Daddy’s stature and maybe that’s Kick-Ass 2’s most subversive element? When was the last time you actively wanted Nic Cage to appear in a movie?
The door is left open for a sequel, but a fresh approach is required if Kick-Ass does not want to become what it originally intended to skewer.