As summer draws to a close, the mania surrounding action-packed blockbusters mellows from a fiery fever pitch to a cool interest in what the fall has to bring to theaters. Someone needs to tell that to Jeff Wadlow, who takes the reins from the first film’s director Matthew Vaughn for Kick-Ass 2. Judging from the sequel’s graphic violence, colorful language, and bold plot risks, it’s the freakin’ Fourth of July. Unfortunately, the fireworks in this film are likely to inspire more terror than wonder.
When we rejoin the adventures of Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl, school is in session for the students in the suits – bespectacled Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and foul-mouthed Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz). These two balance teenage drama with intense training for a fight that doesn’t exist until Red Mist/Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays him perfectly as a deranged Richie Rich) figures out how to exact revenge on Kick-Ass for blowing up his dad in the first movie. With the help of his personal assistant Javier (John Leguizamo), Chris changes his name to The Mother F***er and assembles a crack team of brutal, merciless psychopaths. Compared to new neighborhood superheroes such as Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison with a baseball bat) and Night Bitch (I know), MF’s team is even more horrifying.
Meanwhile, Mindy suddenly stops wounding men twice her size and is starting to fit in with the popular kids in school. She even has a date and gets to wear a dress! Did I mention that Wadlow juxtaposes comedy and carnage with as much subtlety as a Kardashian?
Anyway, with Mindy focused on cheerleading, another character is allowed to take charge and whip the “good guys” into shape. Colonel Stars and Stripes (an appropriately dialed down Jim Carrey) acts as a father figure and a nod to vague good old days full of chivalry and patriotism. Sadly, he is not able to lead the team in the final battle against MF and his thugs. This works about because surprise surprise, the cool kids act mean toward Mindy and she is ready to get back to ending lives after humiliating her former friends in the cafeteria. Yay?
It is very difficult to know how to feel while watching this movie. In addition to the haphazard pacing, every person that we form an emotional attachment to is either murdered or maimed (and in one case, almost raped), and the brutality of it all mostly takes the joy out of seeing the bad guys get their comeuppance. This is like a Tarantino film through binoculars; we see the depth of every cut and hear the force behind every blow until the point of nausea. Moretz recently mocked Carrey’s misgivings about the film’s level of violence, saying “It’s a movie and it’s fake… I don’t want to run around trying to kill people and cuss. If anything, these movies teach you what not to do.” That’s a bit of a reach since the whole premise of this film is based on people getting in touch with their inner awesome by copying deadly vigilantes. And the violence performed by Colonel Stars and Stripes and Hit-Girl is, in one word, badass. Everything about their fight scenes is impressive and invigorating, just like an intense video game. So while it’s right to assume that we can tell fact from fiction, it’s also obvious that this movie exerts zero effort in discouraging its stars’ behavior. It has a few after-school special moments like when Mindy refuses to break a promise or when the Colonel tells people not to take the Lord’s name in vain, but these are just random droplets in a humongous bloodbath.
The cinematography and witty screenwriting is reason enough to see the film, but squeamish people should keep their eyes out of harm’s way and go see a drama.
Final Grade: B-