15th Aug2013

‘Kick-Ass 2′ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, Jim Carrey | Written and Directed by Jeff Wadlow

kick-ass-2-cast

When we last saw Hit Girl and Kick-Ass, they were trying to live as normal teenagers Mindy and Dave.  With graduation looming and uncertain what to do, Dave decides to start the world’s first superhero team with Mindy.  Unfortunately, when Mindy is busted for sneaking out as Hit Girl, she’s forced to give up crime-fighting – leaving her to navigate the terrifying world of high-school mean girls whilst Dave hits the streets on his own. With no one left to turn to, Dave joins forces with Justice Forever, run by a born-again ex-mobster named Colonel Stars and Stripes. Just as they start to make a real difference on the streets,  Red Mist – reborn as The Mother Fucker, the world’s first super villain – assembles his own evil league of evil and puts a plan in motion to make Kick-Ass pay for what he did to his dad…

Despite Kick-Ass 2 only opening in cinemas yesterday it’s already had a rough time in the press – there are certainly more negative reviews than positive and Jim Carrey’s recent statement that he “in all good conscience… cannot support that level of violence”, did nothing to help matters. However after paying for my ticket, squeezing my arse into the tiny cinema seat and watching the film unfold before my eyes I have to ask – what the hell is everyone on about? Kick-Ass 2 is a incredibly worthy sequel and in some ways it actually surpasses its predecessor.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson is much more comfortable in his role, really capturing the frustrated slacker-turned-hero characterisation that makes Kick-Ass who he is; and whilst his screen time is somewhat diminished in the sequel – given that he shares the focus of this tale – Johnson still manages to build on his performance from the first film. It also helps that the character’s journey is much more defined this time, from wannabe superhero to, by the films end, a true hero: both super AND real. Yet whilst this may be called Kick-Ass 2, this is certainly more of a Hit-Girl movie for the most part, with Chloë Grace Moretz’s character taking much more of a central role in this film as she struggles to align her superhero upbringing with being a regular high-schooler and Moretz could not be any better in the role. She shines through a somewhat cliched script (think Mean Girls) to deliver what is a heartfelt performance, making Hit-Girls’s decision to turn her back on superhero-dom all that more believeable. Moretz’s performance here really gives me hope for her Carrie remake – if she brings the same vulnerability to that role as she does this then MGM/Screen Gems will be on to a winner.

That’s not to say there aren’t some other great characters in Kick-Ass 2, there are, it’s just that they are more one-dimensional than our heroes, although I for am glad of what little screen time and characterisation Lindy Booth got as Night Bitch – I’ve been a huge fan of the actress ever since the days of the “Indiana Jones wannabe” TV show Relic Hunter. And despite his little screen time, Christopher Mintz-Plasse also manages to enthral as Red Mist/The Mother Fucker – at first frustrated he cannot take action against Kick-Ass and then relishing his reborn identity as the world’s first super-villain. The key prison-set scene where The Mother Fucker realises the true potential of being evil? It’s a great display of understated acting from someone who’s not really know for it. Mintz-Plasse certainly hasn’t looked this comfortable in his on-screen persona since the bumbling McLovin.

Of course a Kick-Ass film is not just about its characters, the franchise is nothing without subtext and Kick-Ass 2 certainly has a LOT to say about the genre – even if some of subtext becomes blatantly more overt come the final third when The Mother Fucker’s revenge is had. The film speaks on a lot of subjects that are core to all superhero stories: do superheroes breed super-villains and would the world be a better place without them? What does it mean to be a superhero? How does Hero-dom impact, in this case, what are essentially everyday folk? The film also delves a little deeper, focusing on the consequences of being a hero: the pain, suffering and sacrifice, as well as the rewards (if fleeting) – themes that are relevant in the real-world as much as in comics. Yes this may be a little heavy -handed, with the consequences being all-too overt, but I still think the message works – and works well.

However Kick-Ass 2 still knows its a comic-book movie and, like all sequels, it also outdoes its predecessor in terms of action, carnage and violence, so much so that we get a huge superhero vs superhero “battle royale” to end the film, the likes of which I don’t think has been seen outside of the comics medium – a conceit that is sure to please those fanboys that are only there to see the action. But what is most perplexing, given that this is a superhero movie, is that this is essentially an anti-superhero film, positing that people don’t need to dress up in costumes to make a difference – everyone can be a hero everyday just helping friends, family and their neighbourhood in any way they can. Which is actually one hell of a positive message in todays cynical day and age.

A sequel that surprises as much as it excites, Kick-Ass 2 is out now in cinemas across the UK.

***** 5/5

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