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Movie Review: Kick-Ass 2 (2013)


The original Kick-Ass, released in 2010, was a breath of fresh air amid the cascade of superhero movies that continue to rain down upon us to this day. It was edgy, ultra-violent, and contained a lot of swearing, and it didn’t apologize for all the insanity one bit.

Three years later, the long-awaited sequel, Kick-Ass 2, attempts to relive that magic by continuing the story with roughly the same formula. It’s not a bad film if you enjoyed the first one, as the story is a natural progression from how it ended, and there are still lots of over-the-top violence and uncomfortable moments to satisfy your sick urges. That said, the freshness and edginess of the original are gone, and what we’re left with is just a pretty stock standard comic book movie that will satisfy some but leave others disappointed.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), Kick-Ass, has decided to hang up his green suit and secret life of being a crime-fighting vigilante after the events of the first film, which culminated in the death of his mentor, Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage). Big Daddy’s daughter, the lovable Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), is still doing her thing, but she has been forced to pretend to be “normal” by attending Dave’s school under the guidance of her new guardian.

Kick-Ass then meets Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), who has set up a kind of Avengers initiative/support group for fellow vigilante crime-fighters, which finally makes Dave feel like he belongs. Meanwhile, Kick-Ass’s former partner in crime, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), continues his progression towards supervillain by renaming himself The Motherf*&#er and collecting a team of baddies to take down anyone that dares to stand in his way.

If you were writing a sequel to Kick-Ass, what I just summarized above would probably be the most obvious plot you could come up with. This is one of the reasons why Kick-Ass lacks the punch of the original.

Another reason is because Kick-Ass was full of dark humour, one brutal hit after another, whereas Kick-Ass 2 shifts away from that somewhat and towards a more conventional coming-of-age story, especially the arc about Hit-Girl trying to fit in with the school’s mean girls. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it’s just not as titillating. I didn’t like all the jokes in Kick-Ass, but I found it funny enough for the most part. Kick-Ass 2, on the other hand, had more lame jokes and was probably more “amusing” than genuinely funny.

When it comes to the fighting sequences, however, Kick-Ass 2 still delivers, complete with crazy blood splatters and thudding sound effects. It’s probably a little less stylized than the shocking violence from the original but there are a few cool comic-book sequences that will have fanboys spraying their shorts. A guaranteed crowd favourite would have to be the female Drago from the baddies gang, Mother Russia.

For all its flaws, I still had a good popcorn time with Kick-Ass 2, partly because I had low expectations given its lukewarm reception from critics. Hit-Girl is still very cool, even if Moretz looks a lot more grown up than she did three years ago, and Mintz-Plasse was surprisingly solid holding up the baddie end of the movie. Taylor-Johnson impressed me by managing to look like a high school dork again after his unrecognisable turn in last year’s Savages, though I felt like he lacked the charisma he had from the first film. If they do decide to make a third film (depending on the box office performance of this one), it will need to be drastically different for it to be worth it.

3.25 stars out of 5

ATJ in Kick-Ass 2 (left) and Savages (right)
ATJ in Kick-Ass 2 (left) and Savages (right)

Movie Review: Kick-Ass (2010)

Regardless of what I or anyone thinks of the teen superhero action flick Kick-Ass (based on the comic of the same name), one thing is for sure — I’ve never seen anything like it.

It’s so different from any other superhero or teen movie that it doesn’t really deserve to be put into a specific category.  It’s funny, insightful, crude, and outrageously violent, to the point where it has caused a lot of controversy amongst conservative groups.

Stuff that and stuff them.  Be warned about the film’s content, the over-the-top, brutal violence involving teenagers and pre-teen children, and the nasty language they use.  If you don’t like it, fair enough.  Don’t watch it.  Don’t take your kids to see it.  Advise others against it.  But please, let less uptight people enjoy it for what it is — an original, strangely poignant action film where the blood and violence is so crazy that it is obviously comical, and disturbing — but in a good way.

The premise of the film is rather straightforward.  A typical teenager, Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson), wonders why ordinary people don’t help others in need, and why there aren’t any “real” superheroes out there.  So he takes matters into his own hands and becomes Kick-Ass, a masked vigilante who gets more than he bargained for when he stumbles across truly dangerous criminals (led by Mark Strong) and “true” superheroes (played by Nicholas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz).

If you think Kick-Ass is a cookie-cutter superhero parody, you’re in for a nasty surprise.  From the very first scenes where Dave gives us an insight into his life, and the introduction of Cage’s “Big Daddy” and Moretz’s “Hit Girl”, I could tell the film was going to be a lot darker and much more uncomfortable than your ordinary superhero flick.  You just don’t normally see films like this tackle the type of issues and subjects that Kick-Ass does, you just don’t see 11-year old girls use those sorts of words (!), and you certainly don’t see them slicing people up and shooting them in the head.  But these are the things that keep Kick-Ass fresh and compelling to watch.

Like all superhero movies, Kick-Ass requires suspension of disbelief, but director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) makes the world in which the characters inhabit about as believable as it could be.

However, Kick-Ass is far from perfect.  The tone was very uneven — the mix of regular teen comedy jokes and extremely dark, unsettling violent comedy, plus actual serious plot/character development scenes made it a difficult ride on the emotional roller coaster.  Further, at 117-minutes, the film was and felt too long.  And while I liked Dave’s friends, the whole love interest subplot was lost on me.  Not enough attention was given to it (in my opinion) to make it work.

Having said that, I have little doubt Kick-Ass will go down as a cult classic.  Moretz’s “Hit Girl”, of course, steals the show, even though Aaron Johnson manages to portray Kick-Ass as a highly likable protagonist.  The truth is, the action scenes in Kick-Ass are simply phenomenal, better than most “pure” action films out there today.  It’s heavily influenced by John Woo’s films (especially the earlier flicks), and the film itself recognises this.  And I loved the tributes to classics I won’t spoil by mentioning.

Yes, Kick-Ass is confronting and unsettling and controversial.  But don’t we want more films like that?

4 out of 5 stars!