Words by Simon Christie
Three years on from the breakout commercial and critical success of Matthew Vaughan's Kick-Ass comes Kick-Ass 2 - a moniker unfortunately indicative of the level of creative effort and novel thinking applied to director Jeff Wadlow's sequel.
Fans of the first outing's normal-people-as-superheroes, high-octane, frenetically violent and uniquely fun take on the superhero genre will doubtless head to the cinema with a genuine hope, belief and optimism as would befit the outlook of any noble crime fighter. So it's therefore something of a tragedy that instead of trading positively and responsibly on that selfsame audience's goodwill, Kick-Ass 2 will leave most fans of its predecessor emerging from the cinema reluctant to ever risk suiting up again.
Events pick up from shortly after where the first film left off. Aaron Taylor-Johnson's Dave/Kick-Ass has inspired an increasing number of average Joes to don lycra and masks to take up goodwill vigilante work. This premise offers the film a great opportunity to develop interesting, quirky and unique takes on what motivates and makes a superhero, but character development is painted with such broad strokes that most of these new players remain poor, one-note gags, as hollow and devoid of colour as Bruce Wayne's Bat Cave.
Balancing the good-versus-evil see-saw is the returning Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whose Red Mist character has undergone a re-branding, becoming a self-styled supervillain - The Motherfucker - intent on avenging the demise of his father at the end of the first film. Mintz-Plasse works hard with what he's been given, but his descent into genuine evil is neither fully committed to, nor made use of effectively for comic purposes, culminating in an attempted rape scene played for laughs that offends on numerous levels.
Unfortunately, the one vigilante most people have paid the ticket price for - Chloe Grace Moretz' Hit Girl - is given a story arc seeing her turn her back on her former life-less-ordinary violent alter-ego to pursue a 'normal' existence of high school, cheerleading and bad first dates. It's a massive mis-step taking the strongest elements of the first film and casting them aside for much of the sequel, and Moretz struggles with the material she's given. After presumably signing on for what she thought would be Hit Girls' finest hour, she instead finds herself working most days on a script that appropriates the weaker elements of American Pie and Mean Girls - with awkward, out-of-place high school cliches that furtehr illustrate that director Wadlow really has little concept of the sort of film he's shooting.
That said, that Hit Girl becomes so massively marginalised in Kick-Ass 2 may actually prove the film's bigegst blessing in disguise, as elsewhere Wadlow attempts to directly clone the DNA of the first film with horrible results. What may be defended as homage, actually amounts to little more than a series of significantly poorer reiterations of its predecessor's high points. From an action sequence choreographed to 'When the Saints Go Marching In' trading entirely on the Banana Splits set-piece from Kick-Ass, to Jim Carrey desperately trying to channel the wonderful craziness of Nicolas Cage's Big Daddy, Kick-Ass 2 offers up scene after scene that smack of deja vu.
Much has been made in the media of Carrey distancing himself from publicly promoting and supporting the film due to its violent content (a stunt which has surely garnered the film more promotion and attention than any number of press junkets ever would have). Viewers will therefore be surprised to discover what a marginal role he actually plays in proceedings. It's another example of a lack of commitment to any of the new characters, perhaps forgivable if the actual plot moved on faster than a speeding bullet, but the truth is there's really little plot to speak of. Some terrific actors show up briefly, only to be just as quickly forgotten (John Leguizamo, Iain Glen) as the film jumps from here to there with no real pace or committed conviction as to where it's headed.
Just as in the first film a copycat Kick-Ass is mistaken for the real deal and gunned down, this sequel represents a poor imitation deserving of a similar fate. If Vaughan's film was about ordinary people becoming something super, Wadlow takes that same super something and regurgitates something very, very ordinary indeed.
Kick-Ass 2 - 2013 - USA - 103 mins - dir : Jeff Wadlow