Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kick-Ass 2

When Kick-Ass was released back in 2010 it caused quite a stir in the community. Based on a comic book mini-series by Mark Millar, the film centers around a group of people, some teenaged and one barely past 10, who decide to become costumed vigilantes and fight crime face-to-face. The young character of Hit-Girl was at the center of the controversy because of the horrific acts of violence she commits and the extent of the foul language that spews from her mouth. It had people up in arms and the audience was extremely divisive; you either loved it or you hated it.

Personally, I loved it. I saw it at an advance screening that was part of the first ever C2E2 convention in Chicago and the film’s stars, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz, were in attendance to host a Q&A afterword. Being that it was based on a comic book I didn’t give much thought to the violence that went down. I enjoyed the film immensely. It was fast paced, funny, action packed and more than a little morally ambiguous. I couldn’t wait for the sequel.

Kick-Ass 2 is here.
Taking place a couple of years after the original, we find high school senior Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka Kick-Ass, hooking up with a team of vigilantes, calling themselves Justice Forever, who become targeted by the world’s first super-villain, once known as Red Mist and now going by the moniker The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Can Kick-Ass convince the retired Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) to return to action to make the streets safer?

The film suffers from sequelitis, which is the need for the filmmakers to basically tell the same story as the first, only amped up due to a much bigger budget. Not that I’m complaining since I found Kick-Ass 2 to be just as entertaining as the original. The film is predictable and follows the outline of part one to a “T”, but the reason I enjoyed this follow-up so much is the characters.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is back as dorky Dave/Kick-Ass and he certainly has the part down pat. He is naturalistic and makes his character immensely likable regardless of the horrific things he’s doing in some scenes. Chloë Grace Moretz stole the show in the original and does the same here. Although she’s not quite as vulgar this time around she shows off a more complex side to her character that I wasn’t expecting. Jim Carrey takes the place of Nicolas Cage as the big name star and runs with it as Col. Stars & Stripes. He looks like he’s having a blast and some of his obvious adlibs (“Yeah, there’s a dog on your balls.”) are hilarious. McLovin himself, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) isn’t the greatest actor in the world and isn’t scary, which is why I’m assuming the filmmakers decided it would be best to make him a laughing stock by having his newly christened “The Motherfucker” wear repurposed S&M gear as his super-villain outfit. It worked. I never once thought he was a serious threat, but he sure made me laugh (that liquor store robbery was a riot). Morris Chestnut takes over the role of Det. Williams (played in the original by Omari Hardwick), Hit Girl’s adult guardian, and he makes the role his own.

The supporting cast is great as well. I especially enjoyed seeing John Leguizamo as The Motherfucker’s voice-of-reason bodyguard. Donald Faison cracked me up as Dr. Gravity and Lindy Booth gets a few great moments as Night Bitch. I was happy to see that Clark Duke had more to do this time around as Marty/Battle Guy.
I have read the comic books that both this and the previous film are based on so am aware that there were drastic changes to events to make them work within the movie and appeal to a broader audience (the finale of the comic book is much darker than in the movie). Writer/director Jeff Wadlow did a bang up job in making it a nice fusion of the source material and Hollywood fluff. He keeps things flowing along at a nice pace and I was never once bored. There are some dramatic moments that are handled very well and the action scenes, while short, are shot well and are never confusing. He has a good handle on comic book melodrama and keeps the film feeling like a natural extension of the first film.

The fact that Kick-Ass feels the need to belong to a group of like-minded people is something that I really could relate to at the age the character is in the film. We all want to be accepted into a clique of people that share our ideals and interests, and when he is accepted into Justice Forever he finds exactly what he was looking for. The counter to that sub-plot is that Mindy (Hit-Girl) is forced by her guardian to join a clique of mean girls who do nothing but act bitchy and cream over boy bands. Seeing her attempt to fit in against her will is probably the most uncomfortable event in the film aside from the violence. “Be yourself” is the theme of the entire film (Insect Man says it flat out when introduced) and it’s most welcome. Unfortunately Mindy's character takes it to a ridiculous level and kind of ruins the impact when she rebels. Thanks writers.
The humor level was raised as well with plenty of awesome quips and broader jokes by the characters. Anything involving The Motherfucker in full garb ended up being hilarious due to how awkward he looks. One scene involving the character Mother Russia (the massively six-packed Olga Kurkulina) uses the background music from Tetris as she takes on a squad of police. I think I was the only person in the theater laughing like a madman at that part. Get with the geekdom people!

The moral ambiguity is back in full force, allowing the audience to decide if what these characters are doing is right or wrong. I did hear a few people gasp in the screening once in a while meaning that the audience was feeling the effects of the on-screen events. I for one jumped back a few times as to how harsh a particular scene played out, but as I said before, it’s a comic book movie so I didn’t take what I was seeing too seriously.
Some of the special effects are quite shitty, namely the greenscreen shots during the van chase scene. All the blood is goofy looking CGI as well. I don’t know about you, but I miss the days of good old fashioned squib work. I don’t think I’ve ever seen CG blood pulled off in a convincing way, and here’s no different. Keep it real Hollywood to coin a phrase.

Another issue, and I think the most important of all, is the oversexualization of the Mindy/Hit-Girl character as its creepy and extremely out of place. Watching her get wet for the first time is not something I cared to see, nor found funny in the slightest. It’s kind of detestable really upon thinking about it. Matthew Vaughn clearly stayed away from that with a ten foot pole in the original film, but Wadlow seems to fill most scenes involving her with some sort of weird sexual energy. Gross.
While the ending is a letdown, some characters do some stupid ass shit (really Ass Kicker?!) and some of the happenings are ridiculously over the top, Kick-Ass 2 is a very entertaining flick that I highly recommend. Yes, the characters are doing bad things. What makes the movie work for me is that all the violence comes from the simple fact that they’re doing what they feel is right. Do I endorse vigilantism? Hell no. This is a movie. Make believe. The sooner some people come to realize that the better.

4 out of 5

p.s. Stay through the end credits. There is an extra scene.

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