Kick-Ass 2

Not quite the Millar’s tale…

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

After seeing the original Kick-Ass in 2010, I rushed out to get the source material, only to find huge deviations between what was on screen and what was in the panels. The comic ended up quite downbeat and depressing, whereas the film went for a more generic happy ending. Being ahead of the curve this time, I read Kick-Ass 2 before seeing this film.

“I try to have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?”

Some years have passed since Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) caused a stir by becoming the first real life superhero, Kick-Ass. After losing her father, Mindy Macready aka Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) is struggling to adapt to high school life. Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) wants revenge on Kick-Ass and reinvents himself as the world’s first supervillian, The Motherfucker. Chris assembles a villainous crew, fantastically named “The Toxic Mega Cunts” and together they wreak havoc. Coincidentally, Kick-Ass has also joined a group, a team of do-gooders known as “Justice Forever”, led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Kick-Ass 2 felt like it was trying to emulate the first film. It certainly doesn’t have the edge the original Kick-Ass had. This could partly be down to the fact it’s a sequel, but I think it’s mostly down to the film intentionally pulling its punches. It’s nowhere as visceral as the first. The story’s half decent, but things are pretty predictable. Once you have the two groups all properly introduced, the third act featuring a confrontation and a smackdown between the two teams is a given. The writing also isn’t nearly as sharp. There were some choice Hit-Girl lines in the first one. The memorable, precise swearing of the first has been replaced with a scattershot approach, believing you can say “fuck” at any point in a sentence and have it still be as funny. It ain’t, Of the new blood cast-wise, there are a few highlights. I thought Carrey’s bat-wielding born again Christian Colonel Stars and Stripes was great and is the real heart of the film. A mention also has to be made of Donald Faison’s Dr. Gravity. Faison makes him likeable thanks to his natural enthusiasm and eagerness. Of the Toxic Mega Cunts. Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) is the clear star. She’s a big, hulking Ivan Drago type that is just a joy to watch.

I’m not sure why the film is called “Kick-Ass 2”, as it’s Hit Girl’s film.  Kick-Ass himself is relegated to being a bit-part player for most of the runtime.  The idea of Mindy trying to fit in with the popular girls is fun, but most of it is boring.  It’s the standard Mean Girls stuff without the wit. However, Mindy’s efforts at fitting in give way to a brilliant scene where she discovers her libido whilst watching a pop video featuring teen dreamboats and glistening abs. It’s funny and sweet in equal measures and Moretz plays it perfectly. It’s great that despite her lack of a childhood, beneath it all Mindy’s just as susceptible to boy bands as any other normal teenage girl.  With Kick-Ass being sidelined, other things fall by the wayside. Despite significant things happening to him, he’s given no arc whatsoever. It’s odd that they’d give the lead character fuck all to do.

I’ve never liked lines like “This isn’t a movie, this is real life”. It’s a meta joke that always draws me out of the experience. Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t shut up about this being “real life, not a comic book”. It’s strange then that the film has super-cartoony moments, like some bitchy girls vomiting and shitting themselves with the same force as some of Tarantino’s squirtiest squibs. or a van sequence involving Hit-Girl which uses a distracting amount of green screen. You want to proper, more realistic take on real life costumed crusaders? Watch James Gunn’s Super. The film wisely pulls back on the darker moments in the comic.  It has to be said that some of Millar’s nastiness doesn’t sit well with me. Undoubtedly the darkest part of the comic is a scene in which Katie Deauxma is gang-raped by The Motherfucker and his crew. There’s a moment in the film where I genuinely thought they were going for it. However, the film feints and plays it for laughs, which is fine, but I wonder why they did it at all.  The off-screen beating they go with is only marginally less nasty. It’s one of several tonally inconsistent moments in the film that prevents you from fully engaging with what they’re bringing to the table. If a film can’t settle on a tone, then you end up strangely disconnected and are less likely to care about anything that’s going on.

Highlight of the film for me was Mother Russia’s rampage, where she single-handedly takes on a squad of policemen. The sequence isn’t something we’ve seen before unlike most of the film’s other scraps and it’s genuinely thrilling. It wins massive bonus points by scoring the whole escapade with the Tetris theme. Another selection for my Scenes of the Year list, I think.

Do you remember a small picture from about a year ago called The Dark Knight Rises? Remember how frustrating it was to have an enfeebled Bruce Wayne train up to return as Batman only to be knocked back to square one by Bane as soon as he dons the cowl, meaning we had to sit through yet more fucking scenes of him training up to be Batman again? Well, in this film, Kick-Ass and Hit Girl both quit, come back, quit and finally return once more and it’s similarly frustrating. I got the feeling they were treading water until the third act. Quitting the hero business is fine, to not know whether you’re coming or going and artificially padding out the runtime with pointless repetition isn’t.

“You don’t have to be a badass to be a superhero. You just have to be brave.”

Kick-Ass 2 is a mixed bag. I enjoyed it whilst it was on, but as soon as the credits rolled and I starting reflecting on it, it started to fall apart. It’s not as sharp or as funny as the original and it has some real tone problems that let it down heavily. Overall, fairly good. I wanted to like it a lot more than I ended up liking it though.

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