Movie Review: Kick-Ass 2

Now here’s a movie that’s fun to review. It came out last week.

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Starring:
Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director:
Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf, Never Back Down)
Rating: MA15+
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In 2010, when the first Kick-Ass movie came out in cinemas, it was a pretty novel idea to see a movie so earnestly reflect the real life explosion of social media (liberal use of MySpace notwithstanding) to ground a truly bizarre, highly stylish, blood-spattered and frequently pitch-dark concept in a kind of hyper-reality. The whole thing was unfathomably fresh to the point of controversy and, while certainly not for everyone, became an instant favourite among plenty of comic book movie fans who didn’t know they wanted something so different. In 2013, however, it’s understandably quite a bit harder to recapture that kind of freshness. Acknowledging social media is hardly a unique gimmick anymore and the shock of seeing an 11 year-old girl (Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl) swearing and dismembering left and right is dampened both by repetition and by the fact that she is no longer 11. With that important caveat out of the way, it’s worth saying that Kick-Ass 2 is a very entertaining movie. The series is still funny, still stylish and if you enjoyed the first one, your money will be well spent on the sequel.

Despite a change in the director’s chair that sees Jeff Wadlow of Never Back Down fame take over from X-Men First Class director Matthew Vaughn (who takes a producing credit here), Kick-Ass 2 follows rather smoothly from the end of the first movie. The consequences of that adventure’s ending are explored and there are clear signs of an effort to establish continuity. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is the major plot mover here, playing Chris D’Amico, the former holder of the Red Mist persona from the first Kick-Ass. Seething over the murder of his mobster father by Aaron Taylor-Johnson‘s titular Kick-Ass and pushed to breaking point by another tragedy, D’Amico snaps and dons the new moniker “The Mother ****er”, who henceforth shall be known as MF. He vows to be the world’s first real supervillain, gathers up a gang of ex-cons using his father’s money and vows revenge on Kick-Ass.

Meanwhile, our only slightly competent protagonist discovers Justice Forever, a group of self-dubbed superheroes led by Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes. The famous comedian is great in the mostly serious ex-hitman role and he does get some opportunity to showcase a pinch of trademark insanity to boot. Yet Justice Forever as Kick-Ass initially finds it is no match for the cashed-up crew of the MF, mostly due to the incredible villainous henchwoman Mother Russia (newcomer Olga Kurkulina). A legitimately scary and merciless presence who isn’t without humour, the Soviet stereotype is Kick-Ass 2‘s major breakout character.

Nonetheless, Hit Girl is once again the most interesting character in the movie – though for different reasons this time around. Thanks to a sense of loyalty to the wishes of her late father, she spends an awful lot of time out of costume and in amongst a prissy high school clique. While these scenes do mix things up and provide grounds for some interesting parallel themes, they are riddled with cliches and at times play out almost shot for shot like Mean Girls. Regardless, without the benefit of playing opposite Nicholas Cage (who is missed by the whole film, really) Moretz positively holds her own and deals with all the emotional material her character has to chew through with ease – including a scene that arguably takes Hit Girl a bit too far into uncharted territory.

If it’s been a while since you saw the first one, you may not remember just how dark it was, but believe me, Kick-Ass 2 is not for the faint hearted. The film not only matches but probably eclipses the brutality of Kick-Ass – make no mistake, the MF is a monster with next to no grasp of reality, even if Mintz-Plasse‘s admirable performance makes some joking allusions to Mark Millar‘s even more twisted comic book source material to distance the movie adaptation from it. Jeff Wadlow‘s vision for the story is always colourful, constantly visually arresting and packs both laughs and real depth.

It does rely on a handful of cliches for its exposition and plot advancement and cannot possibly hope to recapture the truly unique circumstances behind its predecessor, but again, if you liked the first movie, there is a very good chance you will enjoy Kick-Ass 2. If you didn’t, steer well clear.

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THE VERDICT

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Good:
Funny, stylish, surprisingly emotional performances, Mother Russia
Bad:
Cliches, lack of freshness, no Nicholas Cage
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3.5 VsG !

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