Kick-Ass 2 has been a long time coming, with the original, directed by Matthew Vaughn, having been released in 2010. Suffice it to say, Kick-Ass 2 has some mighty big shoes to fill given the massive popularity of its predecessor. After a change in directors, it remains unclear whether the the film will be able to make that singular brand of hyper-violent lightning strike twice.
Written and directed by Jeff Wadlow, also responsible for the rather lackluster films Cry_Wolf and Never Back Down, Kick-Ass 2 is loosely based on the second entry in the comic series of the same name. Kick-Ass 2 is in a difficult position from the outset because it must necessarily be compared to the original Kick-Ass, which is, by all accounts, a far superior film. After the credits began to roll, my first impression was that Wadlow had watched Kick-Ass and thought it was pretty neat, but didn’t really grasp core aspects that made it a great movie. More on that in a bit though.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Mortez reprise their roles from the first film as David Lizewski and Mindy Macready, respectively. Likewise, Christopher Mintz-Plasse undergoes a bit of a transformation as he takes on the role of newly christened antagonist, ‘The Motherfucker,’ and Jim Carrey joins the fray in a cameo appearance as Colonel Stars and Stripes. Like most movies this summer, I have a bigger problem with the quality of the writing than I do with the acting. That being said, Johnson and Mortez both do what they can with the material they’re given, but the real standout, strangely, was not Carrey but Plasse. Plasse’s unassuming, nerdy presence contrasts hilariously with his over the top super villain outfit and his bombastic monologues constitute some of the film’s more memorable moments. The most jarring difference from the original, as you may have guessed, is the absence of Nicholas Cage as Big Daddy. Cage’s performance in Kick-Ass added so much heart and charisma to that film, not to mention that he seemed to perfectly embody the psychotic kind of person who would dare to be a real life superhero.
As I mentioned before, Kick-Ass 2 shuns its roots in favor of a much more generic and ultimately weaker experience. It almost seems as though Wadlow said “Hey, people liked the violence and action of the original, so why don’t we just do more of it?” In reality, there was an underlying element of irony and subversion to the original that essentially deconstructed a lot of the standard superhero tropes that have been done to death over the years. Kick-Ass 2, on the other hand, kind of takes for granted that real-life superheroes, in the context of the Kick-Ass universe, have kind of been established as “a thing” at this point, and instead focused on telling a rather uninteresting story.
Apart from being WAY too long, there were several plot points that seemed blatantly unnecessary. For instance, about 25 or 30 minutes of the movie were taken up by an almost Mean Girls-esque sub-plot involving Hit Girl navigating the complex social strata of her high school. There scenes were so jarringly out of place when compared to the tone of the rest of the film that I couldn’t help but groan as the movie dragged on and on. Now, I realize that the intention was to portray Hit Girl as maladjusted and socially inept as a result of her childhood being spent fighting crime, but the simple fact of the matter is that I couldn’t bring myself to care when the film goes through the trouble of first characterizing her as an unstoppable badass, then switching directions and putting her in trivial and unnecessary situations for the majority of the film.
It pains me to say that Kick-Ass 2 is kind of a wash because I, along with many others, was a big fan of the original. Nevertheless, there’s just not a lot to recommend about this strange, ultra-violent piece of cinema, mainly due to a bland, predictable story and a heavy reliance on violence in place of any remnant of clever subversiveness. To quote Big Daddy from 2010, “Kick-Ass? More like Ass..Kick. Huehuehue.”
Rating: 2 out of 5