By Jessica Delfanti | August 18, 2013
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writer: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, John Leguizamo, Morris Chestnut
When Kick-Ass came out in 2010, it provided a unique side dish to the superhero craze: a film that actually featured an everyday hero, sans power or overly witty quips. Now, in the second installment, the gang is back to save the industry from tired superhero cliches once again with the same cheeky pseudo-innocence and bloody fun.
Kick-Ass 2 returns to its predecessor’s two high school level heroes. Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has hung up the green and yellows in favor of a high school life but feels the itch to return to the hero craze he began. Meanwhile, Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) is battling to maintain conflicting promises: the vow to protect the city as Hit Girl and the agreement with her new guardian that she will hang up the Hit Girl costume to pursue a “normal life.” While Mindy focuses on assimilating among other high school age children, Dave decides to get back into the bad-guy womping business by joining up with a crew of masked vigilantes that, like him, are more costumers than fighters. That is, with the exception of Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), a teeth-grinding, gosh-darned patriot! Under the guidance of the Colonel, and with some brutal training from Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), Kick Ass goes from high school wimp to superhero-worthy strength.
Which is good, because he needs it. Chris d’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is back, and it isn’t as Red Mist. Instead, he’s the Motherfucker, dead set on avenging his father’s death. His target? Kick Ass.
What the Kick-Ass movies do so beautifully is take a situation that is inherently comedic–a bunch of generally unskilled fighters dressing up as heroes–and put them in high risk situations with real consequences. I appreciate that the films don’t feel a need to pull punches, and are constantly reminding the viewer that just because this is largely comedic doesn’t mean there will be a happy ending. Kick-Ass 2 carries on the darkly flippant tone, juxtaposing the ridiculously inept Chris against the brutality of skilled gangsters, the naive Dave against the realities of cause and effect.
It is this tone, far more than the story, that contributes the most enriching substance to the film. Watching the Motherfucker’s queen-henchman, “Mother Russia” (Olga Kurkulina) tear apart multiple police vehicles and kill officers is so packed with enjoyable cartoony action that it’s almost impossible to remember that there are innocent men dying during the scene. And in most films about teen superheroes, this wouldn’t be reinforced. Here, though, there is blood for every hit, there is death for every killing strike, and when we, as viewers, try to ignore the dark tone in favor of the comedy, we are punished with surprisingly brutal reminders.
Taylor-Johnson’s acting supplies a significant amount of the tone, as he shifts from wide-eyed teen to grieving child to determined avenger without breaking a sweat. His Dave is lovable, at times glaringly pathetic or admirably brave, and generally very human.
Opposite him, Moretz is, as expected, fantastic. Taking Hit Girl from a child hero to something more tangible and profound, Moretz plays Mindy with just the right combination of vulnerable and strong. While her popularity from the previous film was well known, there are parts of Kick-Ass 2 that tentatively toe the line of sexualizing the young actress. In general, it seems director/writer Jeff Wadlow (commendably) hoped to maintain her innocence by focusing on her ass-kicking abilities rather than her romantic prospects, but some physical focus was unavoidable. The result is what almost looks like a bizarre facial tick: in every close up shot, Moretz twitches her lips constantly, as if given direction to keep them in constant motion. A distracting touch, but undoubtedly preferable to an updated Hollywoodized Hit Girl costume baring midriff.
A film that matches each laugh with a splash of blood might easily cancel itself out, but Kick-Ass 2 supplies both to a greater objective: a silly film with substance. And to the more serious films in the genre, Kick-Ass 2 has one thing to say: “You don’t have to be badass to be a hero.”