Jim Carrey said he couldn’t, in good conscience, promote Kick-Ass 2 due to its extreme violence.
Well, he was kind of right – this is one twisted, violent movie. There is major death and destruction, and kids are involved in some of it. It’s the kind of violence that will polarize – people will either laugh nervously to let it slide by them, or will run and hide from this, decrying it for even existing.
But here’s the thing – this is cartoony, comic book violence, that, like it or not, reflects the violent acts going on in the world. Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar has been using the buzz-phrase “violence with consequence,” and he’s right – the massive increase in violence is here, but it also has real consequence, with everything from death to dismemberment to police action that leads to horrible consequences for the heroes.
So yes, this movie is violent – very violent – but it also happens to be very good, very fun, and ramps up the personal drama alongside the action. Oh, and Chloë Grace Moretz is just such a damn superstar, you can’t help but love every second she’s on the screen.
The movie picks up where the last left off, with Big Daddy dead and gone, Mindy aka Hit-Girl (Moretz) is now in the care of Marcus and heading to High School, and a bevy of new homegrown superheroes now roam the streets. The newcomers range from the intense Colonel Stars & Stripes (Carrey) to the just-trying-to-have-fun Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) and somewhere in-between like Night Bitch (Lindy Booth).
Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico takes a couple of turns much for the worse, renaming himself The Motherf***er and deciding to recruit a supervillain army to combat these newbies and get revenge on Kick-Ass.
While the action is, well, kick-ass, the first movie was also known for its comedy, and believe it or not, its heart. We wanted to see that out of the second, and while it’s there, the natural moments of comedy and heart are overshadowed a bit by some of the more forced scenes, especially those at the high school. Yes, there were a couple of fun and/or funny moments there, but there were also the longest stretches of eye-rolling and boredom. It’s important to ground the movie a bit, I understand, or else it doesn’t have the weight it should. Sandbagging to hold it down doesn’t work though.
Luckily, for every melodramatic hallway argument or predictable double-cross, there were moments of brilliant character work, and “oh God I can’t look away but kind of want to” shock-level action and violence. As I left the theater, a friend said he actually “felt sorry for the villains” a bit in some scenes, due to how brutally destroyed they were getting, and I could understand that. Hit-Girl obviously stood out once again as the real star to the film, despite it bearing the name of another character, though she now had a rival for scene-stealing in Mother Russia, the female member of the Toxic Mega C**ts, the supervillain team in the film. Mother Russia has one particular sequence that quite simply will widen the eyes of every person in every theater – it’s shocking, insane, and all technically within the realm of possibility, which makes it all that much scarier.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, while taking the backseat to the ladies a bit, has a masterful second turn as Dave Lizewski and Kick-Ass – while some of his naiveté from the first film is gone, his plucky attitude and desire to help remain. Seeing that get pushed up against by the increased violence and tragedy in his life makes for great drama (the natural kind), and Taylor-Johnson pulls it off well.
Jeff Wadlow both wrote the screenplay (based on the comic by Millar and artist John Romita Jr) and directed the film, and is currently signed on to do the same for Fox with X-Force. His handling of violence, knack for relationships and “hell yes” moments play well here, but some of those telegraphed plot turns needed a little work. For his first major writing/directing turn, Wadlow performs admirably, showing a lot of promise. His cuts from the original comic are welcome, and the humor he injects into the worst of the scenes helps you remember that it’s only a movie.
For the faint of heart, fair warning, there are scenes in Kick-Ass 2 that will make you cringe. It’s disturbing (again, with a purpose, which is clear) but to a point that will make some simply not want to watch it. If you can get past the violence, or enjoy it for the staged insanity that it is, you’ll find a great, exciting, and even hope-filled film full of stars in the making.