By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)
The path to heroism is not always the same for all versions of this archetype. In Kick-Ass, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) dreams of becoming a costumed hero like the kind he reads about in comics. When he attempts to emulate these characters, he mostly ends up looking like an ass, nearly killed. With the help of heroic vigilantes Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), he manages to rise up and stop villain Frank D’Amico.
A few years later after a brief hiatus, Dave decides to don the costume once again and join a group of new crime fighters inspired by his past heroics. The team known as Justice Forever, led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), begins to take the criminal underworld by storm. As for Kick-Ass’s partner Hit-Girl, her dangerous extracurricular activities are cut short when her guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut) implores her to end her superhero career and pursue normal high school interests.
In the meantime, Frank D’Amico’s son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) plans vengeance against Kick-Ass by abandoning his Red Mist alter-ego and adopting one of a more villainous nature. He assembles a team of rogues who plan to lay waste to the city. Kick-Ass and his team of heroes will face their biggest challenge yet when Chris recruits some of the vilest and most dangerous villains known to man.
Writer/director Jeff Wadlow takes the reigns from Kick-Ass director Matthew Vaughan and the differences are evident. Vaughn’s direction and the work of his editing crew resulted in a sharper and smoother film. Wadlow lacks some of the sensibilities of his predecessor and the visual effects team in the sequel doesn’t seem to step up to the challenges of bigger set pieces and more intensive action sequences. I’m sure that the pre-visualization for the film was more ambitious than the budget allowed, but it’s always a shame when a sequel looks cheaper than the first installment.
As for the writing of the film, the sequel does deliver laughs aplenty, but lacks some of the wit, charm and heart of the first film. Based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., Kick-Ass 2 delivers entertaining shocks and surprises, but not all of them are of the intelligent variety. Hit-Girl doesn’t have as many sharp witted profane quips as she does in the first film, but in all fairness, her character is going through a transitional phase. Also absent is a hilarious breakout character like Big Daddy. The filmmakers attempt to fill this void with Carrey’s hilarious Colonel Stars and Stripes, but this character has a limited presence in the movie.
The character with the most amusing scenes and lines has to be Chris D’Amico whose attempts at villainy are often hilarious. Christopher Mintz-Plasse nails this role and had me laughing and smiling during most of his screen time. Returning actors Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloe Grace Moretz reprise their roles and do so wonderfully reflecting the necessary maturity and growth of their characters in the story.
Sure both Kick-Ass 1 & 2 deliver insane, hyper-stylized violence and profanity laden comedy, but within their hearts, they are stories about the paths and development of heroes and villains. That is one thing that this sequel does really well. It advances the stories of Dave Lizewski and Mindy Macready who are both trying to decide what directions to take with their lives. Perhaps Wadlow tries to accomplish too much with his film in too little time.
The filmmakers attempt to go bolder, wilder and more over-the-top with the violence, action and content, but at the same time develop the maturity of their lead characters. It’s an interesting dilemma, but one that Wadlow barely pulls off. The film does work as shock comedy and manages to progress its story and characters, but lacks some of the intelligence and heart of the first film. At this point, it should go without saying that this film will not appeal to everyone. More conservative audiences should steer clear. This movie, much like the Hit-Girl character doesn’t pull any punches.