In 2010, Matthew Vaughn and Lionsgate brought audiences around the world the first Kick-Ass motion picture. While it didn't work for everybody, it highly impressed viewers who were searching for an R-rated action comedy. I found it to be an outrageously fun feature with a tasteful twist on what is generally known as the generic superhero formula. However, even the first picture isn't known for its genuinely well-crafted dialogue, nor for clean humor and action sequences. Instead, Kick-Ass thrives off of vulgar language and tons of carnage, which I always welcome in my action flicks. The formulaic PG-13 superhero movies have become rather stale, making this a refreshing direction on this category of summer releases. Universal Pictures has picked up the sequel for distribution, with Jeff Wadlow as the new writer and director. While it won't bring any new fans to the series, it will certainly please those who enjoy the source material.
After the insane battle of good versus evil in the first film, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is left needing a serious amount of training. Even though "Kick-Ass" is known to the community as being a badass, he doesn't compare to Mindy Macready (ChloŽ Grace Moretz), who has the alias of Hit-Girl. However, she's forced to give-up fighting in order to have a normal life. Kick-Ass ultimately joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. With Kick-Ass' return, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) plots an act of revenge. Little does Dave know, nobody is safe.
While Matthew Vaughn primarily focused upon the comedic aspects of the story, Jeff Wadlow has a mix of drama and action. The film constantly switches between the perspectives of Dave and Mindy. Wadlow keeps the plot centered around Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl underneath their masks. Some audiences might not be convinced by the dramatic elements, especially since Dave is never easy to connect with. However, Mindy's plot is a lot easier to sympathize with, as it exaggerates upon the horrible behavior that can be found within high schools. Even superheroes aren't able to entirely escape bullying, especially since she can't kill innocent kids for being jerks. While this isn't as common in the first movie, Kick-Ass 2 continues to boast its sense of humor. It's incredibly raunchy with its jokes about pop culture and action flick clichťs. Hit-Girl is still as crude as ever with her vulgar language. However, this isn't the only thing that makes her so funny. She's always somehow involved through the most humorous situations in the plot. I didn't laugh-out-loud as much as I wanted to in this sequel, but it got some decent laughs out of me.
Unfortunately, the villain isn't quite as impressive this time around. Red Mist has changed his name to "The Motherf%&*^r" in order to become a "super-villain" in his attempts to kill Kick-Ass. He wasn't ever meant to be intimidating, but he simply feels like a waste of time. It feels as if he's only there to be on Kick-Ass' level of fighting skills. He isn't funny and he isn't threatening, making him a step down from Mark Strong's representation in the previous movie. Fortunately, both the good guys and the bad guys have created small armies to fight one another, making things a bit more interesting. It's never difficult to discover where the narrative is building, but there isn't much of a fun twist applied. Even so, the film never lost me, since I enjoy the series for what it is.
Writer/director Jeff Wadlow clearly knows how to deliver a fun moviegoing experience, even though he has difficulties with tone transitions. Instead of focusing on what the film is good at, he constantly changes the atmosphere to being dramatic without much of a transition. This makes for some awkward scenes and pulls from the overall fun tone. Regardless, he's able to deliver a large amount of the entertainment by making this as intense as his budget and the R-rating allowed. Those of you looking for a family-friendly superhero flick will want to look elsewhere, since this earned its restricted rating from the MPAA. From what I understand, Kick-Ass 2 is pretty accurate to its source material, but it will still split viewers.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson returns in the role of Kick-Ass, with his real identity being Dave Lizewski. He's even more bland than he was in the previous film, which is a fairly large feat. While the character's material is alright, Johnson simply isn't a very interesting actor. He doesn't bring much to the role. Meanwhile, ChloŽ Grace Moretz once again steals the screen as Mindy, otherwise known as Hit-Girl. This young actress is extremely talented, and I can't wait to see what she's capable of achieving. Moretz is funny and incredibly fitting in this role. She's convincing through both the dramatic and action sequences, allowing her to shine the brightest. Jim Carey plays Colonel Stars and Stripes, who is clearly the replacement of Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy. While I was interested to see how this could turn out, Carey doesn't receive much material or time to shine. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is one of the most irritating actors to keep appearing in movies in quite some time. In the first flick, he played Red Mist. Now, he plays "The Motherf%&*^r" in the attempt at being the main villain. He's so annoying on screen, it can be difficult to watch him for very long.
The visual structure isn't very different than it was previously, despite its new director. This is a good thing, since there wasn't anything wrong with the visuals. The action sequences are still explosively entertaining, even though these aren't quite as memorable as those in the first Kick-Ass. Regardless, there are some new tricks that writer/director Jeff Wadlow has up his sleeve. He still manages to create some special moments of his own. I will never get bored with watching Hit-Girl brutally slaughter a group of criminals. The song choices aren't as smart, but there are still a lot of good visual choices that have been made.
After anticipating Kick-Ass 2 for quite some time, it simply isn't as good as its predecessor. However, I believe that some of my fellow critics are being a bit harsh. If you don't have fun with these films, then they simply aren't your cup of tea. They aren't meant to be well-constructed pieces of cinema. It most certainly has its share of flaws, but viewers enjoy this series for Hit-Girl. Not only is she funny, but her action scenes are highly entertaining. She definitely has the potential to have her own series of films. Kick-Ass 2 isn't for everybody, but I had a good time. It isn't as cool as the previous film, but this is still a worthwhile moviegoing experience for fans. Recommended.