Film Review – Kick-Ass 2
Jeff Wadlow’s Kick-Ass 2 will once again bring up the discussion of violence in movies. It’s strange how—at least to American censors—shootings, stabbings, decapitations, and other forms of extreme violence are more often than not accepted. But on the other side, the slightest expression of sexuality (something many, if not most of us, will experience in some form) gets treated like forbidden subject matter. I don’t want to come across as some party-pooper who can’t enjoy violence in films, because I do if it’s in the right context. But the way it is handled in this series oscillates between satire and revelry. It never chooses a side, instead assuming we will go along with whatever mayhem is randomly thrown on screen. There’s a problem with that.
The issues I had with the original Kick-Ass (2010) are magnified in this installment, mostly because of the change in filmmakers. At the very least, Matthew Vaughn directed the original with some style and flair, whereas Wadlow (who also wrote the screenplay) flattens his film with loose plotting and generic visual capacity. Action set pieces leave no lasting impact, fight scenes are incomprehensible due to the relentless camera shaking, and the comedy comes off as juvenile (and even borderline offensive). There are a lot of homophobic, misogynistic, and racial jokes thrown around, and while the novelty may have inspired some laughs in the first entry, it has quickly worn out its welcome.
The title character is Dave Lizewski, aka Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), but the real star is Mindy Macready, better known as Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). I’ve always been conflicted about this character. It’s one thing to see her beat down and fight criminals, it’s another to watch her brutally maim and murder people with a heightened level of glee. I’m not sure I can connect with a young kid who can slice off someone’s head without a moment’s hesitation, but that’s just me. When we catch up with her, Hit-Girl is caught in the middle of a dilemma: torn between the superhero life she had with her father Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and the promise she made to her current guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut) to live as a normal teenager. This brings her to a silly side plot involving her trying to fit in with some popular high school girls. I won’t go too far into what happens, but I will say it involves teens portrayed as sexualized objects, and a lot of human excrement. Classy.
The most character development from Kick-Ass comes from his abdominal region, as we get well informed as to how much Taylor-Johnson worked out for the role. Bored with his regular life, Lizewski decides to don the Kick-Ass persona once more and team up with a group of citizens inspired by his previous crime fighting. These include Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), and Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Controversy surfaced when Carrey inexplicably cut associations with the project, citing his strong dislike for gun violence. He has every right to express his feelings as he wishes; it’s too bad his performance itself is a wasted opportunity. Carrey is a proven actor whose facial and body contortions have become legendary, but his approach to the character (however little we get to see of him) is stilted and damn near monotone. Wadlow missed out on capitalizing on one of the most animated comedians in show business, perhaps ever.
Let’s not forget the villain, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Stripping himself of the Red Mist costume, D’Amico adopts a new personality, the leather-clad misfit known as The Motherf*cker. Hell bent on exacting his revenge on Kick-Ass from the first film, The Motherf*cker uses his newly inherited wealth to hire the meanest, toughest team of bad guys he can find, and naming them whatever racial stereotype he can muster, such as Black Death (Daniel Kaluuya), Genghis Carnage (Tom Wu), and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina). It goes without saying that the superheroes and supervillains eventually come face to face in a big climactic showdown. However, what was supposed to be a battle of epic proportions turns out to be more like a bunch of cosplayers fighting to get in front of the line at Comic Con.
“But Allen, it’s just a movie! It’s supposed to be fun, don’t take it so seriously!” If you enter Kick-Ass 2 and enjoy it, I say more power to you. I see it as a morally irresponsible exercise in bloodshed. It’s not enough to simply show violence on screen and call it “entertainment”; what a film has to say about the violence is critical. This film does not accomplish that. Instead, it hides behind clichéd messages about how “there’s a superhero in all of us” as a pathetic excuse for these characters to act like sociopaths. It wants to show this cartoonish action, yet be taken seriously. It continuously states how it shows “real life” and then turns around and exhibits actions that are anything but “realistic.” I’m sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.