Review: KICK-ASS 2 Sours Whatever Fun There Was The First Time

Eric D. Snider, Featured Critic

The first Kick-Ass movie ended on the usual superhero note: it set things up for a sequel. Ordinary high-schooler Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) had established himself as masked crusader Kick-Ass, with lethal tween Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz) -- aka Hit Girl -- poised to become his partner. Rich, spoiled, whiny Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), another would-be hero, had sworn revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his crime-boss father.

All the pieces were in place for a decent sequel -- so what happened? Why is Kick-Ass 2 a repellant, mostly unfunny, distasteful-and-not-in-a-good-way mess of mixed messages and tonal confusion?

Actually, it doesn't really matter why it's bad; what's relevant is that it is. Puzzling over how it came to be that way -- Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s comic book source material? Writer-director Jeff Wadlow's mishandling of it? The absence of scene-stealer Nicolas Cage? -- won't make it any better.

We pick up two years later, with Dave having retired from the dangerous hero biz but itching to get back in the game. Hit Girl never left it. Now living with her godfather, a conscientious police detective named Marcus (Morris Chestnut), Mindy secretly continues her vigilante work. She and Kick-Ass (despite the latter's disappearance from public view) have inspired legions of imitators, too, while Chris D'Amico, the erstwhile Red Mist, seeks to reinvent himself as a supervillain named The Motherf*****. (It seemed like he was going to do this immediately after the last film, not two years later, but whatever. Teenagers are easily distracted from their constant, burning obsessions.)

Dave seeks likeminded individuals to form a justice league of sorts, and naturally wants Hit Girl to be part of it. But Mindy has reluctantly agreed to obey Marcus' wishes that she hang up the latex suit and be a normal girl. She gets connected with a scrum of mean girls, led by blonde Brooke (Claudia Lee), to guide her through the daily life of a high-schooler, all the while pining to break some bones in the name of justice.

kick-ass-2-photo-02.jpgSoon Dave is collaborating with Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), a gruff ex-military patriot who's leading a team of self-appointed superheroes. One of them is Dave's best friend Marty (Clark Duke), who somehow didn't know until now that Dave is Kick-Ass. Another one, a lady avenger who calls herself Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), becomes Dave's new love interest. (Dave's previous girlfriend, played by Lyndsy Fonseca, dumps him over a stupid misunderstanding early in the film and is never mentioned again.)

The story is headed for a face-off between Kick-Ass' crew and The Motherf*****'s. But it isn't headed there very fast, or with much steam behind it. Instead, the major characters piddle around performing unimportant tasks and having unmotivated changes of attitude. Dave is a jerk to his concerned father (Garrett M. Brown) for no reason. Chris visits his imprisoned uncle, who does something nasty that helps Chris to decide to do what he'd already decided to do. (John Leguizamo is tangentially involved.) Mindy is betrayed by the mean girls, gets revenge with a magic machine that makes people poop and vomit, and accepts her true destiny as a killer of bad guys.

Along the way, the film frequently pauses to spout a message that contradicts whatever message was conveyed the last time it paused. Violence isn't the answer, except when it is, which is usually. You should be true to yourself by sneaking out to fight crime in a costume if that's your bag, but you should also follow your parents' wishes. Oh, and you don't need to wear a mask to be a hero.

More than once someone says "This is the real world, with real consequences," or words to that effect -- and at every turn, the real consequences of violence, revenge, and vigilantism are disregarded. If anyone involved here thinks that Kick-Ass 2 is actually an examination of real-world violence, then I'd be afraid to live in the same community as any of them. An ultra-violent escapist fantasy is fine, but don't insult us by claiming to be realistic.

The movie's idea of "real-world consequences" is that after The Motherf***** kills several police officers -- and then claims credit for it on Twitter -- the police go around arresting everyone in a costume except him, regardless of whether they're suspected of a crime. Somehow it becomes illegal, overnight, to wear or own a costume. Dave's dad protects him by telling the cops he's Kick-Ass, and they haul him off to jail for possession of a Kick-Ass costume that clearly doesn't fit him, and it's all just so stupid.

kick-ass-2-poster-08-300.jpgIn the graphic novel, a female character is gang-raped by The Motherf***** and his goons. Don't worry, though! In the movie, it's been turned into a punchline! The Motherf***** intends to rape her, and has the goons hold her down while he unzips his pants, but then he can't get an erection and has to settle for just beating her up. Har! Dodged a bullet there, would-be rape victim!

In another scene, Chris says he wouldn't kill a dog because "I'm not THAT evil!" So rape, yes. Animal abuse, no. If the movie stated the conflicting views back-to-back, like I just did, it would be a darkly funny example of how twisted the guy is. But the movie doesn't do that. It just puts both ideas out there, separately, without comment. The implication is that the movie thinks it's OK to turn the threat of rape into a joke, but thinks killing a dog would be beyond the pale.

Where's the fun in any of this? And where's the structure? Dave feels like a supporting character in his own movie, while Mindy feels like the protagonist -- yet her arc is bafflingly weak, even illogical. Whatever transgressive thrills we felt when Mindy was a 12-year-old saying and doing horrific things are gone now that she's a teenager like everybody else.

The film has no idea what it wants to say, much less how to say it. There's still some potential in the premise of ordinary people trying to be superheroes, but not in the Kick-Ass franchise. We're done here.


The films opens in theaters across North America on Friday, August 16.

Around the Internet:
  • omnisemantic1

    I actually have to take my words back (as ekkko). This was an excellent sequel!
    Pretty much every scene was fun precisely in the way it wanted to, and here's probably why so many people get it wrong. For those who don't innately "get" the reasoning behind why the scenes are conducted like that, they try to interpret the movie's idea of fun in a overly conventional way, which simply doesn't fit. For example the attempted rape was not supposed to be funny - it was (believe it or not) a character building moment for the MF...
    Anyway. Yes, the director is not as good. Yes, there's no Nickolas Cage, and Carrey's role doesn't amount to much. Yes, the scene with Hit-Girl and that van was shot in the 80s. And yes, the structure of this movie is identical to the original (the only REAL annoyance).
    But it's still very good ^_^
    Cheers!

  • Elijah_106670

    That's so disappointing. The first one was wildly mishandled and ruined much of what was so great about the comic (especially the final act). But I attributed some (not all) of that to the comic having not been finished while the movie was being made. Sure, it hadn't been written yet, so they had to write their own ending. It was less dark, way wackier and didn't make much sense.

    But the second book's been out for a while, now! The ending is there, the material is all there, it should be simple enough to adapt, this time. Bleh. Why was this one so hard to get right?

  • Nemuri Kyoshiro

    An unfunny piece of garbage. Kick Ass 2 is the worst shit I've seen recently/ fuck this movie!

  • Kevin

    I read a positive (8/10) review then immediately came across this negative review. I'll be watching this flick regardless but its sad so many ppl are basing their decision on what a movie critic thinks. I'm not speaking solely for the Twitch users but you see this behavior everywhere.

  • Just was in the cinema..found the movie funny and awesome, my GF would give it 10/10. We are both not knowing the comics..we are no comic readers in general and don't search a deeper sense when we see a movie like this.

  • F_F

    you could probably watch a dick jokes movie and call it a 10/10.. you have no opinion compared to the author of this review

  • Joe

    Learn how to form a sentence.

  • Steve Austin

    Perhaps English is not his first language.

  • Jim

    Guy's German, ja? Cut him und some of ze slack

  • [A]

    Bummer. Guess I'll wait for it to show up on tv.

  • ekkko

    Not surprising at all - it already looked like that from the promotion materials...
    Too bad, cause I totally didn't expect the first one and loved it, Hit-Girl and all (especially as I have little patience for "regular" superhero movies).

  • "repellant, mostly unfunny, distasteful-and-not-in-a-good-way mess of mixed messages and tonal confusion?"

    That was my problem with the first one. Except that it was hidden under a veneer of a precocious little girl doing unspeakably violent things and saying things very against the precocious little girl archetype. Which was admittedly fun, but didn't carry the movie for me as a whole.

    I'm less inclined to think a 15 year old girl killing people and saying dirty words will have the same punch as an 11 year old, so I'm going to pass on this one. The trailer seems to think hit girl is all they have going for it.

  • Stuntman Miquel

    Suck a dick!!! This movie was good

    What the fuck do yall want citizen kane???

    Its a fun movie and if your takin it this seriously your missing the whole point

    #GOSEEIT

  • [A]

    ROSEBUD IS THE SLED Y'ALL haha crazy people..

  • TheQiwiMan

    *.
    *y'all
    *,
    *Citizen Kane
    *It's
    *you're
    *taking
    *you're
    *.

    -Grade: F

    You can do better than this, Stuntman Miquel. See me after class.

  • Your shtick has run thin. I realize you think I can't touch you because you're logging in as a guest but it's really no big deal to block your entire IP range from commenting. Behave, or take your act elsewhere.

  • DiabeticCharlie

    It's a completely valid and common critique of movie reviewers. A lot of critics brush off films that others see as mindless fun, just because it doesn't have a mind.

  • Pa Kent Says Maybe

    That's common, but it's not valid. Critics don't "brush off" films. They apply their critical thinking skills. The "brushing off" is done by those who assume and insist movies should be mindless because mindlessness is the only thing they can handle. As if down is the direction we all must go, because of the malformed tastes of the dummies.

    I'm tired of twelve year-olds. I'm even more tired of twenty-thirty year-olds who refuse to mature past the age of 12. I'm glad critics are trashing this filth.

  • 'Suck a dick' is not a critique of anything.

  • Pa Kent Says Maybe

    Well, maybe of chewing. "You hurt my genitals when you chew, so suck on them instead." Even then, it's a lousy critique.

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