Movie Review: Kick-Ass 2

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It’s been two years since Kick-Ass killed crimelord Frank D’Amico and he longs to get back into costume again, so he recruits Hit-Girl to teach him some new moves just before she’s caught and has to get out of the game. Meanwhile, Frank’s son and Kick-Ass’s old friend vows revenge and becomes the world’s first supervillain, The Motherf*cker.

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Jeff Wadlow, 2013

There’s a lot going on in this movie. Kick-Ass’s alter ego Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is frustrated with his boring high school life and gets back into the superhero game, while Mindy, aka Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), has been superheroing it up the whole time but makes a promise to her guardian to stop, launching a Mean Girls/Carrie-style storyline for her involving the queen bee (“if you mess with the queen bee, you’re going to get stung”) and a pretty nasty vomiting vengeance scene. Meanwhile, Kick-Ass hooks up with a superhero team led by Captain Stars and Stripes (an intense but pretty straight Jim Carrey, who does a good job) and Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) becomes supervillain The Motherfucker by throwing money at everyone to get things done for him. Eventually The Motherfucker figures out how to unleash vengeance on Kick-Ass and everything comes together for a big battle, obviously.

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The fundamental problem with this movie is that it doesn’t know what its message is. There’s an idea running through it that you should be true to yourself and that wanting to help people is good, but that just makes the insane violence committed by a variety of people in masks (including, of course, a 15 year old) incredibly problematic. Where Kick-Ass worked as a meta-critique of superhero movies, bruising and blistering, cool and funny and shocking, this one completely falls down. It also lacks the visual style that Matthew Vaughn brought to the original. On the other hand, Matt Millar is a horrible person and the changes made to dull the comic’s edge aren’t necessarily all bad. I don’t know why they decided to include an almost-rape as a joke rather than an actual rape as revenge against a man; why not cut it entirely? The movie bounces around ideas without settling on them; in-jokes about comic books side by side with a simultaneous celebration and condemnation of vigilante violence. The spark that lit with the first movie fails to ignite because of the film’s own confusion over its message – I’m not against stylised violence, but it’s put in a weird context here, and it isn’t even done as wel as in the first movie. I laughed a few times and enjoyed some of the jokes, but I didn’t get the same invigoration as I did last time around.

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Production still with the awesome Mother Russia.

What the filmmakers do seem to have understood is that the real star of Kick-Ass was Hit-Girl, and this movie gives the fantastic Chloe Grace Moretz some good stuff to work with. The story is always more interesting when it’s following her, with her awesome purple bike and killer fighting skills. Just as the highlight of the first film was her assault on D’Amico’s headquarters, so the best fight in this film is between her and Motherfucker’s most awesome henchman Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina), a behemoth who has the scene most similar to that of Hit-Girl’s from the first movie when she mows down ten cops in a suburban street. Mindy’s sexual awakening to a One Direction-style boy band’s music video is a joy to behold, and Moretz wipes almost everyone else off the screen in her portrayal of the complicated Mindy, who is still mourning her superhero father Big Daddy, killed in the first film. Her story is well worth continuing, even if the context is strange – this film refuses to acknowledge what the first film did, that what happened to her as a child was wrong, and her well-meaning guardian Marcus is painted as holding her back for trying to help her understand this. There’s also the fact that, as an adaptation of a story by horrendous misogynist Mark Millar, it’s not kind to women at all; pretty much all the women in this movie who interact hate each other and spend most of their time fighting or screwing each other over.  It’s a shame, but it’s still another good performance from one of my favourite working actresses.

Kick-Ass 2 on IMDb

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