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Review: Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow

Premise: A sequel to the 2010 film, in which an average high school student decided to act like a superhero. Picking up shortly after the events of the first film, a group of people have joined Kick-Ass, adopting secret identities and fighting crime. At the same time another young man turns himself into a super villain and assembles an army of criminals.

What Works: Kick-Ass 2 is a radically uneven movie but highlights are found in the story of Hit Girl, played by Chloe Grace-Moretz. In this film she is a high school freshman and after her legal guardian forces her to give up her superhero persona, Hit-Girl gets socially adopted by the popular high school clique. Although it is typical of the high school film genre and borrows a lot from Mean Girls, this subplot of Kick-Ass 2 is the best element of the movie as Hit-Girl goes through familiar adolescent experiences. That is due in no small part to Chloe Grace-Moretz’s performance. She is able to pull off the viciousness of her superhero persona while being a credible fifteen year old girl. When women are made into action heroes, filmmakers tend to rob them of their femininity but Hit-Girl remains a young woman and that makes her an interesting character. The other notable performance of Kick-Ass 2 is Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes, a former mob enforcer turned vigilante. In Kick-Ass 2 Carrey gives one of his best performances in many years and probably one of the best of his career. It’s unfortunate that Carrey and Grace-Moretz’s efforts aren’t in service of a better movie.

What Doesn’t: There are a ton of problems with Kick-Ass 2 and the movie gives the impression that it was made by people who didn’t know what they were doing. The script is a cluttered mess. There are too many characters and storylines and aside from Hit Girl’s high school adventures none of them are done well. The action scenes are also unimpressive. They have none of the grit or outrageous fun of the original Kick-Ass and the choreography and cinematography of the fights are nothing special. The incompetence of Kick-Ass 2 is especially apparent in the basic misunderstanding of this property. The original Kick-Ass deconstructed the superhero story and it mostly played like a satire. The satirical element of the first film was lost by the time it reached the climax but if Kick-Ass 2 is supposed to be a satire it fails to lampoon anything and it’s dissatisfying as a superhero adventure. The filmmakers don’t demonstrate any coherent vision of what kind of movie they were trying to make. The tone shifts from scene to scene, with some moments playing like parody and others like a straight superhero adventure. The movie’s tonal problems are partly a result of its source material and Kick Ass 2 is an example of the pitfalls of adapting a comic book to live action. Exaggeration is the defining stylistic feature of comic books but when the characters, costumes, dialogue, and scenarios of comics are made literal they easily become silly. The tonal problems show up in the movie’s strange regard for violence. One of the things that Kick-Ass did successfully was interrogate the difference between violence as entertainment and violence in real life. In Kick-Ass 2 the violence never has any consequences and this movie’s regard for vigilantism is empty-headed. The tonal and story problems of Kick-Ass 2 come to a head in the film’s titular hero and his adversary. Kick-Ass is not an interesting character and he is less interesting in the sequel than he was in the original movie. The villain, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, isn’t threatening at all and when the film gets to its final showdown it pits two lame characters in an uninteresting fight in which nothing is at stake. 

Bottom Line: Kick-Ass 2 is a sequel that was apparently made by people who didn’t understand (and maybe didn’t even see) the first picture. The first film was a pleasant surprise but in the sequel the novelty is gone and this is just another comic book adventure with bad writing and worse direction.

Episode: #453 (August 25, 2013)