Directed by Jeff Wadlow
An indeterminate number of years after the first movie, Dave Lizewski’s Kick-Ass is still not as skilled as he needs to be to fight crime, but he’s also somehow inspired a movement of other street heroes. Having lost his former partner, the Red Mist, Dave realizes he needs help, but while the now-15-year-old Hit-Girl is willing to train him, she doesn’t necessarily want to team-up. Fortunately, Dave finds a more eager partner in Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) and soon discovers an entire team of ersatz heroes called Justice Forever, led by former mobster turned Born Again Christian Colonel Stars and Stripes, played with a Clint Eastwood-like growl by Jim Carrey. While that’s going on, Mindy has promised her guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut) that she’ll give up Hit-Girl, so we watch her trying to have a normal life as a freshman in high school while coming into conflict with a competitive Queen Bee type.
Taking over from Vaughn and his writing partner Jane Goldman, Jeff Wadlow does a fine job adapting the source material, essentially merging two separate graphic novels into one, cutting between Dave and Justice Forever, Mindy and her high school woeswhich ends in one of those moments you’ll feel guilty at laughing about when she gets her inevitable revenge–and Chris trying to make his name as a super-villaina name that can’t be said in mixed company.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson still does perfectly fine playing down his natural confidence to portray Dave Lizewski as the somewhat dopey superhero, leaving an opening for Chloe Moretz to once again steal the movie, first as Hit-Girl as we watch her violently taking out bad guys and then out of costume as Mindy, a teenage girl trying to fit in. Once again Moretz is so compelling that the time the movie spends away from her, particularly in the second act, tends to drag because the other stories don’t feel as interesting.
Moretz has grown up since the last movie and it’s somewhat odd that Mindy seems considerably older, being 15 and in high school, while Dave and his friends don’t seem to have changed at all since the previous movie. It’s somewhat fun watching Jim Carrey show up briefly as a conflicted vigilante, but it’s not nearly as fun a character as Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy in the first movie. Christopher Mintz-Plasse still isn’t a good enough actor to convince us he can be a ruthless super-villain but you have to give him some credit for at least trying.
For the most part, the movie remains fairly faithful to the source material in terms of story beats even if a lot of it is toned down for budget and to get an R-rating. It’s hard to decide whether how they changed the gruesome rape scene from the comics is much better. It goes from being a moment that leaves you feeling unclean but also detesting the super-villain, to one played up for laughs instead–in other words, it tries to get off easy. There are other times when the violence is taken too far, most of them featuring Chris’ toughest henchman Mother Russia, who in one scene takes out ten policemen by herself.
It’s fairly obvious Wadlow isn’t as strong a director as Vaughn, at least in terms of keeping a consistent tone. Wadlow generally excels at the choreographed action scenes including the final showdown between the supervillains and the group of misfits led by Kick-Ass. Part of why the violence can be tolerated is that it’s so over the top it’s clearly being played up for entertainment purposes much like how Tarantino used violence in “Kill Bill.” The problem is there are a number of deaths in the movie clearly meant to be taken more seriously and it’s hard to have it both ways, which is what this sequel often tries to do. For a movie that’s all about being edgy and in your face, there are a surprising number of dramatic character moments, particularly between Mindy and Marcus and Dave and his father, although they do feel somewhat out of place in a movie that rarely takes anything too seriously.
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