The work of comic writer Mark Millar (Wanted, Kick-Ass) is an acquired taste. Although he writes super-hero comics, complete with brightly-colored masks and spandex, his gritty nihilistic visions often don’t paint a very rosy picture of the world which he seems to believe are predominantly filled with irrevocably fucked-up human beings.
Realizing this, the original Kick-Ass movie made some big changes to the source material. The choice to undercut some of the more gruesome elements with humor worked in its favor (as it does with the sequel). However, the sequel is also stuck with a couple of large plot changes that have to be addressed in Kick-Ass 2.
The first movie saw Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) get the girl (something not even considered a remote possibility in the original work). The problem of what to do with Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) is easily handled as the movie quickly, much to my disappointment, writes Fonseca’s character out of the movie never to be heard from, or spoken of, again.
The second, choosing to make Big Daddy’s (Nic Cage) hero cop origin story true (rather than the make-believe of a mentally unstable middle-aged man) is more problematic, especially when the truth could have helped with his daughter’s less action-packed arc this time around.
Taking place months after the first film, Kick-Ass 2 picks up with Kick Ass coming out of retirement to join the legion of new street super-heroes inspired by his heroics. The group includes a patriotic born-again former mob-enforcer (Jim Carrey), a fake physics professor major (Donald Faison), an old friend (Clark Duke), a pair of distraught parents (Steven Mackintosh, Monica Dolan), and a slutty new love interest for our hero appropriately named Night Bitch (Lindy Booth).
While continuing to work and train our hero and kick a little ass of her own early in the movie, Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) is forced to call things quits by her guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut). Although this gives Moretz a different type of dramatic arc (although one similar to the remake we’ll see her in later this year), this also means the franchise’s most interesting and kick-ass character is sidelined for nearly the entire film.
Of course our new tribe of heroes need someone to fight and the sequel’s new threat is also very familiar as Red Mist takes control of his father’s criminal empire, re-branding himself as the Mother Fucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and begins recruiting hitmen, psychopaths, and murderers for his new legion of equally ridiculously-named super-villains (Olga Kurkulina, Andy Nyman, Daniel Kaluuya, Tom Wu, among others) while declaring war on everything that Kick-Ass has inspired.
When Kick-Ass 2 stays focused with the goofy nature of real-life super-heroes, or the crazy action sequences (albeit with a too much shaky-cam for my tastes) it works. But it isn’t without problems. Much like in the source material, our main character is mostly a bland doofus in over his head who steals too much screentime from Hit-Girl (who is too busy with high school politics to do much ass kicking this time around).
Much like the comic, the movie continues to push the bounds of good taste. Although the script thankfully removes the notorious rape sequence of one of its core characters, it’s attempt to play the brutal attack of an unarmed woman for laughs is more than a little unseemly. There are plenty of fun moments to be had in the sequel, but are times when the script knowingly steps over the line to mixed results.
Mintz-Plasse is ridiculous as the Mother Fucker its impossible to believe his army could ever take him seriously. And speaking of armies, I do have a problem with the logic of Kick-Ass’ makeshift legion of do-gooders, nerds, and wimps holding its own against the Mother Fucker’s army of professionally-trained killers in the movie’s climactic battle.
Unimaginatively unsubtle with characters named Mother Fucker and Night Bitch and sequences where a dog chows down on a thug’s crotch for laughs, Kick-Ass 2 is fun at times but it’s also a case of diminishing returns as Millar’s style of storytelling is already wearing thin well before the end of the film. More heroes and less Hit-Girl don’t really make for a winning combination. There might be marginally enough here to satisfy some fans of the first film, but the sequel fails to kick ass.