2013, 103mins, 15
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writer (s): Jeff Wadlow, Mark Millar (novel)
Cast includes: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace-Moretz, Jim Carrey, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Morris Chestnut, Clark Duke
UK Release Date: 14th August 2013
It’s obvious that Jeff Wadlow was a massive fan of Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 DIY superhero master class “Kick-Ass” – because his sequel is patterned after the initial foray to a tee. Picking up three years after the previous flick’s bazooka wielding climax, “Kick-Ass 2” often plays more like a loving homage than a concrete extension of author Mark Millar’s madcap universe, but surprisingly ends up delivering a few very worthwhile hours in the multiplex. Early promotional material wasn't especially convincing, but in a summer of blockbusting comedowns (“Man of Steel” & “The Wolverine”) “Kick-Ass 2” is a gutsy surprise. It’s a tad blunter in execution and much less visually ambitious than its predecessor, but incomer Wadlow keeps energy levels crisp and characterization vibrant, with a script that attempts to spin the tale of Dave Lizewski and Mindy Macready in a familiar but confident direction. Those dubious about the controversial 2010 endeavour will find more to poo-poo here, but converts are liable to be impressed with this well-intentioned and somewhat unlikely continuation.
Unwilling to put her past as Hit Girl aside, Mindy (Chloe Grace-Moretz) has continued with her training and haunting of criminal scum, letting her burgeoning High-School identity falter. Forcing Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to resume similar activities in the guise of Kick-Ass, the pair team-up on the vigilante offensive, causing other costumed do-gooders to arise from the ashes. Chief amongst them is Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), who alongside the newly invigorated Kick-Ass proposes the enthusiastic crime-fighters go official, fronting a unit of masked heroes to help keep the streets safe. However when her guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut) becomes aware of Mindy’s commitment to her previous life, he forces her to focus more on the teenage experience, leaving a confused Dave in the lurch. Meanwhile an embittered super villain named The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) begins to wage war against the new-found societal defenders, citing a vendetta against Kick-Ass as his motivation.
The first film courted headlines due to its adult tonality, and Wadlow is happy to keep ultra-violence and profanity as big faculties of the franchise. It’s less shocking this time around, but the director tends to utilise the risqué elements quite effectively, cultivating an appropriately edgy feel and applying a neat crunch to the movie’s action set-pieces. “Kick-Ass 2” gets off the starting line pretty quickly, and doesn't let up much, which is interestingly pivotal to its moderate success. It’s evident that Wadlow would rather celebrate the wheel than reinvent it, assuredly keeping the salty language, funky characters and a competent editorial hand, freeing his sturdy cast do as much of the heavy lifting as possible. The atmosphere on set was clearly buoyant for this one, as collaborators both virginal and seasoned blend to create a singularly fizzy aura of anarchy; all joined by a shared love of the world Matthew Vaughn provided audiences with three years ago.
Moretz stole the first flick and justifiably takes centre stage here, Wadlow peddling the character slowly away from mafia skirmishes, and into the dark realms of high-school popularity contests. The subplot unfortunately sees fit to climax with a rough excrement gag (the writing this time around is somewhat less graceful), but on the whole it’s a nice narrative detour, pitting the character in emotional and social contexts where knives and throwing stars are no real use. It’s a standard coming of age deviation, doing for Hit-Girl what was previously attempted with the title character, exploiting both inner strengths and typical pubescent vulnerability capably. Moretz shines, desperately trying to keep the Hit Girl legacy alive, whilst slowly being seduced by the draws of the middle-class Malibu princess experience, signified in a brilliantly mounted scene during which the two strains come together in gym class. It’s incredibly fun to watch, which seems to have been Wadlow’s default setting on the picture overall. If innovations are scarce, trade on enjoyment, which both the film and Moretz’s engaging turn do consistently.
Complimenting Moretz and a decent Johnson (built more athletically here than I previously recall) is a tremendously committed and knowingly ignoble contribution from Plasse (who actually makes for a genuinely nasty baddie in spots) and a much publicised cameo for Jim Carrey. The original outing had Nicolas Cage in full ham mode, so it’s intriguing to watch the famed comedian go another direction, a quiet moral compass to guide the gang, capable of remarkable bite when called to combat evil. There’s less for Carrey to do than Cage (he has only tenuous emotional connections with the more prevalent screen entities), but during the movie’s first superhero raid he gets hearts racing and convinces handily as a genuine bad-ass. Wadlow possesses sound action chops, keeping things coherent, adding palatable splashes of comedy for extra liveliness. Portions of the green-screen and CGI work leave something to be desired, but the structuring of the more hectic sequences is effective, and the religious maintenance of Vaughn’s sprightly comic-book inspired palette wise.
The initial film was more musically and aesthetically driven, certainly there’s nothing here to equal the phenomenal night-vision fire-fight or warehouse assault which stood out in 2010; Wadlow forming a more traditionally groomed beast on all major fronts. That said, “Kick-Ass 2” still entertains fluidly and is eons away from the disgrace some were anticipating earlier this year. In a summer of bummers, this one actually gets it right.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2013