Kick-Ass 2 (15/R, 103 mins)
Director: Jeff Wadlow
★ ★ ★ ★ ☆
Based on the graphic novels of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., Kick-Ass was one of the freshest and most entertaining films of 2010.
It took superheroes out of the realm of fantasy and into the real world, where ordinary New York teenager Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) dressed up as a masked vigilante, Kick-Ass, and took on crime. The problem was that, though Kick-Ass was trying to be a hero, he was never very super, something that made him the least compelling aspect of his own movie.
So it was left to Mindy Macready, aka Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) to provide both the fighting skills and be the star of the movie. The opening scene in this sequel mirrors one of the most iconic from the first film, in which Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) shot a gun at his bulletproof vest-wearing young daughter, Mindy. Only this time it’s Mindy who’s holding the gun, and she’s shooting Dave as part of his training.
Mindy, now 15, is still taking on criminals and kicking ass, but Kick-Ass himself has hung up his suit, even though he has inspired others to take to the streets in costumes and fight wrongdoers. But Mindy makes a promise to her guardian, Marcus (Morris Chestnut) who was once her father’s partner in the police force, that she won’t be Hit Girl anymore.
Touching on the insanity of what they're doing, that Mindy should be a girl with a normal childhood, is the first clue that this sequel intends to take a more thoughtful look at these characters’ actions, and not simply be a hyper-violent cartoon.
Meanwhile Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is hungry for revenge since Kick-Ass killed his crime-boss father. He reinvents himself as a supervillain, the Motherfucker, and gathers together a team of baddies to hunt down Kick-Ass and his pals.
Also new to the scene is director Jeff Wadlow, taking over the reigns from Matthew Vaughn. Wadlow certainly delivers with a smart screenplay, but isn’t quite able to bring the same level of panache to the action scenes that the first movie offered.
Being modestly budgeted means it’s fairly low key action-wise, in the first two-thirds of the film at any rate, but the scale of the action matters less than the imagination, the originality and the impact that it has. Moreover it allows the focus to fall on the characters, and is what elevates Kick-Ass 2 beyond simple exploitation.
Though it still has its share of outrageous moments, and a truly inspired all-action finale, the element of surprise, particularly in regard to Hit Girl, has been lost. But that’s precisely why they spend so much time out of costume this time round, so we can get to the core of the people under the masks.
It’s the growth of the characters through this realisation that makes Kick-Ass 2 a successful piece of storytelling, far more than it’s a successful bit of comic fun. For that it should be applauded.