15 August 2013

Review: Kick-Ass 2


What a difference four years makes. Matthew Vaughn's 2009 adaptation of the Mark Millar graphic novel Kick-Ass was a mid-level success due to its smack-in-the-face riff on the superhero genre. Now that the novelty of the extreme language and excessive violence has worn off, there is little reason for a sequel to Kick-Ass to exist. That there even is a Kick-Ass 2 undermines any criticism that was could be construed about the superhero genre in the predecessor.

With so little going for the project, Vaughn jumped ship and now the reins are in the hands of Jeff Wadlow (known for low-budget fare like Never Back Down and Cry_Wolf). Really the only matter drawing attention to Kick-Ass 2 is that one of its stars, Jim Carrey, has decided to refuse supporting the film.

Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz given the gift of a more developed character) are about to put normal life behind them to become a full-time crime-fighting duo. The feeble Dave has bulked up thanks to Mindy's workout regiment, but his tendency to crumble under pressure sinks those efforts. With that, Mindy's new guardian tells her to hang up the uniform.

As Mindy hangs up her Hit Girl uniform and navigates the shark-infested waters of high-school, instead of bashing in skulls, she deals with sleepovers, dating, makeup and boy bands. Hit Girl's forced hiatus creates a drag for a lengthy portion of the film as the runtime is split between Mindy's high-school exploits and a new fighting group inspired by Dave's viral video shenanigans turned heroic antics. Oddly enough, this storyline is the more successful.

Chloë Grace Moretz is an increasingly popular presence in Hollywood and with Carrie coming up with fame sure to follow, she can put this schlock behind her and move on to better pictures.

Back to Dave (how the titular character can be as vanilla as this, I'll never know), Kick-Ass joins Justice Forever ranks to help clean up the streets. Justice Forever is fronted by a reformed mob enforcer known as Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). His methods are extremely unorthodox (pet lovers beware), but they keep the streets clean. While the league begins to thinks they've made a difference, they have yet to face a the vengeful wrath of The Motherfucker, formerly known as Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).

Determined to avenge his father's death, who died at the hands of Kick-Ass and Hit Girl, Motherfucker declares war on Kick-Ass and his cohorts in Justice Forever. Already a powerful crimelord with a legion of henchmen (including the WTF inducing Mother Russia), MF utilizes his sway to put down a ten million dollar bounty for Kick-Ass's head. Largely overmatched, Kick-Ass needs Hit Girl if they have any hopes of winning, and she must decide if it is worth it to give up the rest of her childhood to continue fighting crime.

When a studio cashes in on a sequel from a property that was only mildly successful to start, it's no surprise that the result is a series of diminishing returns. Jim Carrey is tasked with being the over-the-top presence that Nicolas Cage was as Big Daddy, but while the star power is about the same, Cage and Moretz were a much better pairing than Carrey is with Johnson. Even at his most animated, Carrey isn't enough to save scenes without Hit Girl.

Left with nowhere to go but down, Kick-Ass 2 goes for the depths of decency. There's being irreverent and there's being immature. Dogs maul people in the crotch, cops are brutally murdered with a lawnmower and rape is made light of. And, because the film goes exactly as expected, it all ends, rather unsurprisingly, with a giant horde of masked characters beating the hell out of each other. There is absolutely nothing worthwhile in any of the 107 minutes it runs.

The problem with this film is that it pretends to portray violence like a Quentin Tarantino, but it completely misses all of the moral subtext. Everything is about the destruction and none of the consequences.

Kick this sequel to the curb.