“This is not a comic book movie – this is real life,” is a line spoken by our title role in Jeff Wadlow’s Kick-Ass 2 – and it is this very comment which sums up the film’s greatest shortcoming, as although this may be riotously entertaining on occasion, this much-awaited sequel is subverting the comic book genre at times, whilst abiding by its archetypal rules at others. You can’t have your cake and eat it, and it seems that this needs to decide exactly what type of film it’s trying to be.
Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is back, having been inspired to return to a life of battling crime by the effervescent – and exceedingly violent – citizen turned superhero Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), who has collated a group of enthusiasts to hit the streets and combat the criminals. However they hadn’t foreseen quite how difficult a task lies ahead, as Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) takes on the guise of super villain ‘The Motherfucker’. Assembling a team of aggressive and dangerous antagonists, Kick-Ass knows that the only chance they have of defeating their bitter rivals, is to persuade Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) to put on her costume and fight – but she has just started school, and is looking to move on from the dangerous livelihood that killed her father.
Much of the press surrounding the release of Kick-Ass 2 has been based around Jim Carrey’s decision to distance himself from the project given its violent tendencies – and though one feels little sympathy for an actor who knew exactly what sort of film he was signing up for, you can understand his misgivings– as this is one violent movie. The big question is whether or not Wadlow has the licence to take such an approach, as it gets a little too close to the bone and realistic at times, deviating away from the surreal, cartoon elements of the first picture. Of course the comic book itself is insanely dark and dangerous – but in this feature such an approach feels somewhat unsuited and out of place.
The uncomfortable nature of the film extends to a couple of supposedly humorous scenes that quite simply don’t work, while the sexualisation of Hit Girl is off-putting – with a handful of questionable camera shots and, bearing in mind the character is just 15 years of age, her superfluous romantic sub-plot. That said, the human themes explored do give this title some gravitas, as the prevalent theme of parents protecting their kids not only adds a sense of poignancy to proceedings, but it shows off the vulnerability of our heroes, reminding us that they’re just naïve adolescents.
Nonetheless, what you cannot question is the film’s sense of adventure and fun, with some hilarious moments and one liners littered across the production, including some witty and sardonic quips in regards to the genre (Kick-Ass wears an “I hate reboots” t-shirt with his tongue firmly in his cheek). The funniest character is ‘The Motherfucker’, played admirably by Mintz-Plasse, as you truly get a sense for what a deranged lunatic he has become, and you believe in his brutality and pathetic desperation to become a notorious villain. His group of imbeciles are also genuinely threatening: intimidating and seemingly infallible, which certainly enhances the narrative.
Moretz is fantastic, again, this time given a more prominent role than in the first, as we delve deeper into her personal life, while Carrey is perfect in his role too – playing it with just enough eccentricity, but not going overboard, which is always an initial worry where he is concerned. In one instance his character says, “Try to have fun, otherwise what’s the point?” and, ultimately, this is the very core of the picture. Though riddled with issues – and not quite as ingenious as the first – it makes for incredibly fun viewing, and as such ensures that it doesn’t always have to be taken at face value.