Saturday, August 17, 2013

Movie Review: 'Kick-Ass 2'

**** out of 5
103 minutes
Rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity
Universal Pictures

Article first published as Movie Review: 'Kick-Ass 2' on Blogcritics.

I missed the first Kick-Ass when it hit theaters back in 2010, but managed to catch it on Blu-ray as soon as it came out. Being a fan of co-writer/director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust, X-Men: First Class) I was anxious to see how he brought Mark Millar’s reality-based superheroes to life. Filled with hilariously over-the-top violence and some admittedly heavy-handed messages about the consequences that come with it, I was hooked. Upon second viewing, to prep myself for Kick-Ass 2, I loved it even more. Chock-full of comic book savvy self-awareness, the first film certainly lived up to its title. Does the same go for the sequel? Yes and no.

Kick-Ass2Pic1Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is still in high school, and still spending his free time with Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz). Still mourning the death of her father, Big Daddy, Mindy is under the watchful eye of Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut). Mindy is forced to go to school and live a normal teenage life by Marcus, but she leaves every day to hunt for bad guys and continue on Big Daddy’s legacy as Hit-Girl. After rescuing Dave from a group of thugs, Marcus makes Mindy give up her alter ego and promise she’ll never put on the costume again. Now, she’s confined to getting sucked into a group of “plastics”—Dolce (Ella Purnell), Harlow (Tanya Fear), and their leader: Brooke (Claudia Lee)—who show her the ways of watching boy band videos and dealing with her loins.

Dave has joined forces with a group of vigilante superheroes led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). The others include Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), Tommy’s Mum (Monica Dolan) and Dad (Steven Mackintosh), Insect Man (Robert Emms), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), Mr. Radical (Matt Steinberg), Colonel’s dog Eisenhower (Cinna), and Dave’s best friend Marty (Clark Duke), who made up an origin story to join and goes by the name Battle Guy. Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is dealing with his father getting blown up with a bazooka by Kick-Ass and cobbles together a group of super villains—Black Death (Daniel Kaluuya), The Tumor (Andy Nyman), Genghis Carnage (Tom Wu), Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina)—which he leads as “The Motherfucker,” seeking revenge upon Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass2Pic2With Vaughn handing over the reins to writer/director Jeff Wadlow, I wasn’t sure how it would translate considering his only other films are Cry_Wolf and Never Back Down. Not exactly someone you’d expect to be given control of a sequel. Plus, Kick-Ass 2 is being distributed by Universal Pictures now, whereas the original came from Lionsgate. Clearly, the bigger studio is in hopes of keeping the franchise afloat. The first one has earned a somewhat cult status, not exactly the kind of film that gets a theatrical sequel. And while the first film may have tripled its budget, two-thirds of the box office came from overseas. Thankfully, Kick-Ass 2, same as its predecessor, totally lives up to its title.

Taylor-Johnson continues to have fun in the lead, and Moretz seems to absolutely relish getting to play Hit-Girl again. Jim Carrey finally plays a character that isn’t just Carrey being Carrey. In spite of his recent Twitter ramblings, shunning the film’s violence, he plays the only character that doesn’t kill anyone. Colonel Stars and Stripes is a born-again and makes his fellow superheroes perform community service. There’s absolutely no reason for Carrey to get his panties all twisted up over any of this. Yes, the violence is as zany as the first one and the film still gets a little too serious when it decides to be serious, but fans of Kick-Ass will be in attendance for the action, and on that level, Wadlow delivers. If you loved the first one, you’ll at least really like this one. Kick-Ass 2 may not have the originality factor going for it the way the first one did, but it’s still a real Kick-Ass time at the movies, which is exactly what we need to close out the summer.

Photos courtesy Universal Pictures

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