Kick-Ass 2 (2013) Directed by Jeff Wadlow. Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, & Christopher Mintz-Plasse. IMDB says: “The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.”
When Kick-Ass came out three years ago it was one of my favorite movies of 2010. Its sick violence, bright humor, and dark themes came together to form a really entertaining movie. Not only that, but it gave us the stand out character Hit-Girl and really introduced Aaron Johnson (who went on to become a formidable opponent in our old Who’d You Rather tournament of years ago). At least I can say that I got to see the now Taylor-Johnson without his shirt on a few times.
Okay, now I can’t completely shit on this movie, but there is a lot to dislike. First, I’ll say that going into a movie with a group of characters you already like goes a long way. I was pleased to spend time with these people in a film that was at least similar to the first. Hit-Girl doesn’t have as many show stopping moments and Kick-Ass doesn’t have nearly as exciting a fight scene, but they were still the same enjoyable characters. The addition of Jim Carrey to the cast as Colonel Stars and Stripes was truly inspired and he certainly steals scenes, but he was completely underused. Basically, there are some definite reasons to watch the movie, but the end product is just lackluster.
A big problem is the story. Since the events of the first movie Kick-Ass/Dave has taken a step back from crime fighting while Hit-Girl/Mindy has gone on to continue Big Daddy’s legacy despite her guardian’s wishes. (I guess because there is a movie starting) Kick-Ass all of a sudden decides to get back in the game and starts to train with Hit-Girl again. Their bond becomes the strongest part of this film, but there’s much more going on at the edges. Hit-Girl finally gives up her costume to try her hand at fitting into high school and being normal. At this point her story takes the shape of a Mean Girls type story. It also kind of feels like what I imagine scenes in Bring It On 3 might look like. On the other end, Kick-Ass wants to join a superhero force and comes under the wing of Colonel Stars and Stripes. The group Justice Forever is a band of misfits, with some odd but hardly explored characters. These two story threads just don’t really work that well on their own.
A better arc involves Chris D’Amico/Red Mist who becomes a super villain by the name of The Motherfucker. Bent on revenge after the death of his father, his main goal is to take down Kick-Ass but he’s also generally inclined to cause mayhem. As he says, his secret power is money and he uses it to put together a villain group who are paid handsomely for their wrong doing. When his story finally brings together Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl the movie takes a more enjoyable turn, but the three segments really divide up everything that comes before it.
It doesn’t help that it’s thematically all over the place. In Kick-Ass they handled the ideas of vigilante justice and the real costs of violence in interesting, well-done ways. Here, they tackle some of the same issues without any sort of grip on the subject. Moments that should crush you in similar ways as the first movie have no effect. I remember certain scenes in the first, specifically concerning Big Daddy’s climactic moments, that gave me legitimate chills. None of that was going on here. The moments just don’t land. Not only are there plot, pacing, and thematic problems, but probably the most jarring negative of the movie is that it looks incredibly cheap. The effects are shoddy, the green screens are embarrassingly noticeable, and the gore looks fake. For a movie made on the same budget, it’s crazy how lower quality this one appears.
There’s a lot to complain about in this movie but the fact is, it had a high bar to live up to in my eye. Unfortunately, this sequel doesn’t capitalize on its strong suits. It is desperately missing the vision of Matthew Vaughn who’s on to bigger projects. Replacement director Jeff Wadlow (Cry-Wolf, Never Back Down) just couldn’t capture the same energy and so Kick-Ass 2 ends up being a very pale imitation. I still recommend checking it out if you want to see more of these characters, because there are aspects to enjoy there, but lower your expectations or else you’ll end up like me leaving the theater just wanting to rewatch the far superior Kick-Ass.