Movie review: Kick-Ass 2
Light-hearted approach to superheroes still works, but film gets in trouble for needless violence
Posted: August 28, 2013
Showing their true colors. Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass are back, and this time they have to deal with the aspirant supervillain who calls himself "The Motherfucker."
There is nothing wrong with putting some hardcore violence onscreen from time to time. Quentin Tarantino, the most infamous Hollywood director who peddles this kind of entertainment, has perfected the art by creating a world distinct from our own in which the normal rules don't seem to apply, so that we can comfortably watch some horrific acts without feeling morally repulsed by what we see.
The first Kick-Ass film, released in 2010, engaged the audience because even though it heavily relied on the real world - the premise was exciting precisely because it involved real people pretending to be superheroes and found their inner strength along the way - it also had hectically absurd moments of exaggerated action scenes that propelled the film into the realm of the unreal.
However, the profanity-laced sequel, Kick-Ass 2, goes for something a little closer to home by mostly staying away from the exaggeration that made the first film such a thrill. Instead, here it is all about the very graphic result of violence; but when such violence is over-the-top, committed on people who are thugs but not evil, that possibility of moral repulsion becomes ever more real.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the nerdy kid with the glasses and curly hair who fights crime at night under the moniker "Kick-Ass," is still in high school and still getting ignored by all the cool kids. So is the 15-year-old Mindy Macready (Chloë Moretz), who stole Dave's heart in the first film as the hardcore Hit-Girl. But after the death of Mindy's father, she is in the care of a much more serious policeman, Marcus, who rather prefers her to mingle with girls her own age and makes her promise never to don her superhero costume again.
Directed by Jeff Wadlow
With Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
When Dave asks her to team up with him and do good, she cannot resist the urge to get back in the game and get closer to her first potential boyfriend, and as she puts him through his paces, he actually manages to surprise her as he quickly gets into shape (a shot of his ripped abs late in the film makes this point so well nobody could miss it).
Very soon, he has to prove his worth to her when he goes up against a gang of bad guys. It's actually entrapment, as he taunts them with a white fur costume and designer handbags (the reason for the film's constant refrain of homophobic pejoratives isn't entirely clear, unfortunately), and ultimately gets beaten up pretty bad. But Hit-Girl saves the day and chops off the one guy's hands for good measure, too.
This goes one step too far, as we witness a jet of thick, dark blood gushing from the newly formed orifice where the man's arm used to be. If this guy was truly evil, maybe we could have looked at it (albeit in horror) and thought he had it coming. But that is not the case and seems like directorial overreach in bad taste.
Another moment that drags the film down is its use of a device called the Shitstick, which, if pointed at anyone and switched on, delivers a pulse that induces a heavy heaving and before you know it, there is puke everywhere you look. These scenes reminded me of that incredibly awful mafia parody Mafia!, and the laughs produced here are just too easy for a film that can be (and succeeds in being) entertaining at many other times.
But it does try to zoom in on relationships as well, and although all-too-brief, the few moments between Dave and his father do have a genuine sense of sincerity to them.
We are asked to cheer with the superheroes as "When the Saints Go Marching In" plays on the soundtrack during an attack on a local prostitution ring, but that would have been self-evident, had we not seen the graphic separation of arm from body a few moments earlier.
Kick-Ass 2 does have a few moments of exaggeration that will make you buzz, like an exploding police car in a quiet suburb, which shoots up into the air in a ball of fire that is great to watch because (not despite the fact) it is very visibly fake. Unfortunately, at another point in this scene, two policemen are mutilated when a steroid-enhanced peroxide-haired Russian woman throws a lawnmower through their windscreen, delivering yet more blood.
As the titular Kick-Ass, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still one of the most enjoyable "superheroes" around, partly because he seems so human, and there is no serious talk of destiny or anything as grandiose as that, but also partly because he can seem vulnerable without seeming pathetic. If it wasn't for all the extreme violence, this could have been a really great work of entertainment.
André Crous can be reached at