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Kick-Ass 2 Review

kick-ass-2-cast-art

Reviewed by Phil Boothman.

The original Kick-Ass, based on the comic book miniseries by Mark Millar, was something akin to catching lightning in a bottle: impressive and surprising, but more than likely a one-off, never to be repeated again. However, with the release of two sequel series in comic book form and a third on the way, it was inevitable that a movie sequel to the unusual hit of 2010 would be made, and from that inevitability came Kick-Ass 2.

One of the elements which contributed to the success of the first Kick-Ass was the shock factor: not just from hearing an 11-year-old girl drop the C-bomb, but from the outrageous violence and the subversion of superhero tropes at a time when they were beginning to become more mainstream. The major challenge Kick-Ass 2 faces is how to recapture the uniquely surprising nature of the first film without treading over old ground, and in many ways it succeeds in overcoming this challenge.

Instead of simply continuing to play on existing superhero movie tropes, new writer and director Jeff Wadlow chooses instead to take familiar ideas from superhero sequels and subvert them somewhat: more outrageous villains, new comrades and an advancement of the typical superhero origin story. So where Kick-Ass saw costumed crimefighters largely working alone and taking on Mafia bosses, the sequel has them clashing with maniacal psychopaths clad in bondage gear, forming teams of superheroes and overcoming various personal crises to show their true colours as real, upstanding heroes.

However, a sequel trope that Kick-Ass 2 adopts rather than subverts is the idea of making the story ‘darker’: like The Dark Knight to Batman Begins, Kick-Ass 2 is a far darker tale compared to the original. While some of the violent excesses of the first film are toned down, and a couple of the more horrific sequences from the comic books neatly sidestepped in favour of jokes about the inadequacy of real-life supervillains, the film deals with violence on a far more personal level to the protagonists: Dave Lizewski’s family is targeted, and one of the heroes is brutally, and ultimately pointlessly murdered simply to make a point.

But that’s not to say that the trademark humour of the original is gone, far from it: Chloe Grace Moretz’s Hit Girl is just as potty-mouthed and Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Dave is just as nerdy as they were in 2010, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse ramps up the political incorrectness with his supervillain identity as ‘The Motherf***er’ and his racially-stereotyped gang whose collective name is an outrageously profane surprise. However, it’s John Leguizamo’s put-upon ‘Alfred’ to the Motherf***er’s ‘evil Batman’ who gets some of the best moments as he reluctantly helps his ward assemble a crew and set up an evil lair complete with a shark tank, providing an effective realist foil to the comic book-inspired madness the rest of the characters are embroiled in. It’s only unfortunate that Javier is given somewhat short shrift and is unceremoniously dumped at the movie’s halfway point in favour of the more manic characters in the central ensemble.

Similarly, an almost unrecognisably grizzled Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes brings some professionalism to proceedings and is taken out of action surprisingly early in the film. It means that the Colonel never quite becomes the Nicolas Cage substitute Wadlow wants him to be, lacking both a recognisable archetype for a casual audience to relate him to, like the Adam West Batman wrapped in the Christian Bale Batman’s costume that Cage’s Big Daddy was, and the screen time to emotionally connect with the viewer. But he still gets his fair share of moments as he trains the rookie team ‘Justice Forever’ and effectively takes down a prostitution ring with the help of his dog Eisenhower.

There are a few other standouts among the new supporting cast, including Lindy Booth as slinky superheroine and new love interest for Dave known as ‘Night Bitch’, and Donald Faison (best known as Turk from Scrubs) as ‘Doctor Gravity’; and on the villain’s side. Britain is well-represented by Andy Nyman and Daniel Kaluuya as ‘The Tumour’ and ‘Black Death’ respectively. However, the most formidable presence is bodybuilder Olga Kurkulina as ‘Mother Russia’, a frankly terrifying addition to the Motherf***er’s gang and more than a physical match for Hit Girl in the film’s climactic battle.

Elsewhere, the biggest change in the returning cast is in Hit Girl: having supposedly retired her superhero identity following the events of the first film, a large part of the sequel is devoted to Mindy Macready finding her way in life away from Hit Girl. In many respects, it wouldn’t have been an outrageous leap to call the film Hit Girl instead of Kick Ass 2, considering the amount of focus on the former character. The problem is that the story of a former ninja-assassin-superhero trying to fit in with the girly girls at high school isn’t as interesting as the storyline concerning Dave joining Justice Forever which runs alongside it, and yet far more focus is given to the former plotline than the latter. Admittedly, there are some funny moments, such as Mindy experiencing and being completely dumbstruck by her adolescent hormones for the first time while watching a ‘Union J’ (an obvious One Direction parody) video; and some crude ones such as the ‘Sick Stick’ scene which may have audience members of a weaker constitution running for the bathroom, but the overall story feels too much like a subplot promoted to a main plot.

But this is a relatively minor problem in what is otherwise a fun and action-packed, if not entirely riveting cinematic outing that is sufficiently different, by which I mean violent and sweary, to stand out from the usual slew of PG-rated, CGI-heavy summer blockbusters.

Verdict: 8/10

While it never reaches the heights of profanity or hilarity its predecessor did, Kick-Ass 2 is still an enjoyable romp and a decent twist on the superhero sequel, and a movie which remains refreshingly bloody in a market over-saturated with bland, toned-down movie violence.

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  • http://cultfix.co.uk/percy-jackson-sea-of-monsters-review-23530.htm TardisBoy

    Fascinating review Phil! Your review is marvellously written and very insightful – well done! :)

    • EmpathDigital

      Thanks very much for your kind words, I’m glad you enjoyed my review!

  • ᄃΉЯIƧƬӨPΉΣЯ

    I somehow predicted an 8/10

    Great review, hope it’s as good as you say and better to me :P

    • EmpathDigital

      Thank you, I hope you enjoy the film!

  • PK-S

    Oh Phil, you’ve done it again.

    There’s something really special about your writing and reading this review makes me *love* you even more. Considering the film came out yesterday or today you’ve had a remarkably short time to complete a review and this is just shy of being perfect. How do you do it? You make every article fresh and interesting, not recycling the layout or phrases.

    Thank you Phil.

    (And although I haven’t seen Kick-Ass 2 or the original film for that matter I believe the band, Union J were on The X Factor last year. They were a One Direction-lookalike band. I’m not sure if the Union J in the film is the one I’m referring to however.)

    • EmpathDigital

      Thanks for your kind words, they really mean a lot! As for how I keep things varied, different things appeal to me in different films and I just write about what I liked – for example, the frenetic action sequences were my favourite part of ‘Man of Steel’, but my favourite parts of ‘Kick-Ass 2′ were the more humorous character-driven moments. I think it’s important to approach each film as its own separate entity and not refer to related films too much (although I’m aware I did refer to ‘Kick-Ass’ quite frequently in this review). I also find adhering to a formula quite boring, so changing things up is as much for me as it is for you guys!

      And having just checked Wikipedia, you are in fact correct about Union J – shows what I know about these things!

  • Pdurston

    Kick-Ass 2 exceeded my expectations for being an enjoyable romp like its predecessor. It had the right amount of action, comedy and shocks that made the first film entertaining. The only issues I had was how it ripped through plot elements too quickly and how it killed off two of the highlights of the film very early in the game when they could have had the chance to develop. The narrative in places felt rudderless — and it didn’t know what kind of film it wanted to be. I can forgive the familiar superhero clichés that came with it as that can be expected in a comic book film.

    Despite these minor gripes, I had a lot of fun watching it. Actually, I’d happily go and see it again.

    7.5/10

    Cheers for the review, Phil.

    • EmpathDigital

      Personally I liked the fast pace of the film – in a summer schedule populated by films with run-times in excess of 2 and a half hours (‘The Long Ranger’, I’m looking at you!), it was refreshing to watch a film and not lose the best part of my afternoon. It was a much leaner, less flabby film than a lot of what’s out there at the moment, and I for one enjoyed that. I agree about the highlights of the film being dropped without much ceremony, though.

      • Pdurston

        You make a valid point there. It also made a refreshing change from some of the po-faced and serious films we’ve had this year.

  • ᄃΉЯIƧƬӨPΉΣЯ

    Uh…..well that was…very dark. I think this is more serious than comedy! Still great though but…wow

  • Stevie

    This film (for me) was wonderful. It had everything I expected and more. After reading some negative reviews & seeing that it wasn’t doing perfectly well in the boxoffice, I watched the film expecting an acceptable yet unremarkable film. Boy, was I wrong! I cannot stress enough how wrong I was! Kick-Ass 2 was better than the first film in every single way possible. It was beautifully written, and carried on perfectly from where Kick-Ass left off.
    I personally always thought that the characters in Kick-Ass had never been well developed; they were just characters with no background explored at all.
    Like, for instance, Hit-Girl. I found her character extremely shocking and impressive in the first movie, but I didn’t see her character within. This time, I did. I saw the mask, as she puts it. The girl behind that mask with her vulnerabilities and insecurities, all perfectly executed with excellence. Through the movie, I found myself really vying for her when it came to the final battle, as it’s the first ever time I’ve literally felt involved emotionally with a character enough to be willing them from the seat in the cinema to get back up and fight. I’ve never had that experience before, where I’m genuinely on the edge of my seat hoping for them to overcome the obstacle (and what an amazing obstacle Mother Russia is!) so I’ve got to commend them for doing that.
    Not only did this film have great heroes, and great characters, but it also had a brilliant plot, along with my favourite ever super-villain: Mother Russia. I can’t even put into words how much I wanted to be her friend, as her awesome epic, epic-ness and bad-ass-ery just blew me away. I mean, Kick-Ass 2 was really realistic, as it actually felt like the events happening could be real, and Mother Russia had to be one of the real-est surreal villains I’ve ever seen. She was just so impressive! So awesome! I loved her! What a villain though… her last fight was fantastic, though her police massacre was the best. Shocking, yet hilarious. Sham-aze-balls.
    The only problem I had with it was one plot point in the film; it was predictable. From the moment *spoiler* was put in the *spoiler*, it was obvious he was going to *spoiler*.
    That is my only problem, as I really loved this movie. Not only did it pass my expectations, but in my mind it beat the first Kick-Ass hands down.
    10 / 10

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