The first Kick-Ass was entertaining as an over-the-top response to true-blue superhero movies. The Dark Knight might think he’s angsty and tortured and tough, but he has nothing on the merry band of misfits who form a sort of Justice League on crack, featuring an 11-year-old known as Hit Girl who was raised to be the world’s greatest assassin.
It is less entertaining this time. The lines have already been crossed, the 11-year-old is now 15, and all that’s left is to add a few new characters and a lot more violence. There are some interesting ideas, but mostly it’s just a bloodbath.
The first movie ended with Dave (Aaron Tayl0r-Johnson), who has assumed the identity of a superhero (without any superpowers) named Kick-Ass, killing off the crime boss with a bazooka. Now the crime boss’ son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), wants revenge. He has unlimited resources and unlimited fury. He dresses up in his late mother’s bondage gear, looking like a cross between Spinal Tap and Maleficent. He gives himself an unprintable name, builds an evil lair with strippers and a shark, and hires an international assortment of mercenaries to set himself up as a super-villain.
Meanwhile, and this is the interesting part, it turns out that even knowing dozens of ways to kill a bad guy, with his own finger if necessary, Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) cannot escape a little bit of an adolescent identity crisis. Though she confidently assures Dave that Kick-Ass is his real identity and it is being Dave that is the mask, when her cop guardian (an underused Morris Chestnut) makes her promise to be a normal highschool freshman, she decides to give it a try. A section of the movie is like Buffy crossed with “Mean Girls” as she is taken in by her high school’s Plastics and there is a funny scene where she tries out for Dance Squad by imaging herself in a ninja fight. But, as we all know only too well, the evil in high school is worse than any super-villain, and Mindy, like Dave, will learn what her real identity is.
Over and over, characters tell us that what they are going through is real life, not a comic book. That gets as tiresome as the over-the-top carnage and efforts to shock. Writer-director Jeff Wadlow, taking over for Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, fumbles the eternal challenge of a sequel, keeping it enough like the first to deliver what the audience expects while taking it in new directions to make it surprising. His biggest mistake is in overlooking the obvious — this movie belongs to Hit Girl. Every time she is off the screen, it’s like the projector bulb fades.
Parents should know that this is borderline NC-17, an exceptionally violent film with very graphic and disturbing images and sounds, massive destruction, and many injuries and deaths. It also includes exceptionally raw and crude language (a running joke has Mindy filling more than one swear jar), sexual references, and explicit sexual situations and nudity.
Family discussion: Was Dave responsible for what happened to his father? What is the difference between Dave and his friends and vigilantes?
If you like this, try: the original film and the comics by Mark Miller and John Romita, Jr.