Kick-Ass 2 Jeff Wadlow

Kick-Ass 2 Jeff Wadlow
The sequel to Matthew Vaughn's adaptation of Mark Millar's crude, faux-realistic take on masked vigilantism splits the difference between progression and regression, mapping a more compelling and less hypocritical plot trajectory while forgoing the fastidiously composed action sequences of the original.

While not outright sloppy, the hyper-kinetic battle manoeuvres of Hit-Girl and company (the pint-sized assassin steals the show once again) are robbed of the horrific elegance Vaughn achieved, in favour of restless editing and shaky camera work. That would be the influence of Never Back Down director Jeff Wadlow, who takes the reins here.

Now, that lack of artistry might be a stylistic choice — grit in favour of glorification is amongst the chief orders of business this time out — but one gets the sense it's more a matter of budget and talent. After all, even though it never reaches Gatling gun jetpack levels of ridiculousness, Kick-Ass 2 plants its tongue more firmly in cheek than ever, lampooning superhero tropes with gleeful irreverence at every turn.

Millar's story follows the superhero rulebook closely while scrawling naughty captions in the margins. Since the events of the previous film, self-styled citizen defenders have come out of the woodwork. Having hung up his batons (a good call, considering he's only ever won a fight using a bazooka), Dave Lizewski is inspired to give his alter-ego a serious go, begging Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) to train him as Robin to her Batman. We're treated to a standard, but humour-laced training montage and bloody field-test of Kick-Ass's newfound ability to throw a decent punch before Hit-Girl is busted pulling a Ferris Bueller.

Her foster father, Marcus (Morris Chestnut, pulling a Don Cheadle), makes her vow to give up her crime fighting ways, spurring two primary plot forks. Dave, jazzed to finally be capable of more than taking a beating, can't stand the idea of quitting now, so he hits the streets alone initially, but quickly finds himself embraced by a group of do-gooders assembled under the banner Justice Forever. A militant born-again Christian going by the name of Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey, contributing his most thoughtful performance in years) leads this band of misguided do-gooders.

In response to this extreme version of a citywide neighbourhood watch, Chris D-Amico (aka Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and recently rechristened "the Motherfucker") ups his vengeance vow against Kick-Ass, hiring a team of psychopaths as his personal league of supervillains. Yes, this leads to some spectacular over-the-top violence, but as is the case with this series, spotlighting the delusional fantasies of these characters is as important as their excessive actions — until the movie gods must be appeased with a climatic battle, at least.

D-Amico's bratty sense of entitlement and extremely narrow worldview are expressed by his mad insistence on giving his minions ludicrous costumes and ridiculously racist codenames. Of course, this is also a jab at the mainstream comics industry. The satirical side of Millar's story still errs on the side of hypocrisy — it once again becomes the very thing it's criticizing, albeit with graphic depictions of the consequences of violence woefully absent from most action movies — but within all that is a surprisingly effective depiction of teen angst.

Intelligent and extremely mature for her age, Mindy is the ultimate outsider trying to fit in. Seeing such a seemingly unstoppable force wounded by the emotional trials of high school is as heartbreaking as how she deals with a flock of vapid bitches is cathartic.

Although it doesn't hold a candle to the first visually and still falls prey to many of that film's thematic shortcomings, Kick-Ass 2 is full of crowd-pleasing wish-fulfilment and uncouth zingers, which means it should play well to its target audience, especially those hoping for a bit more of a reality-check to temper all the hero fantasies this time around.

Oh, and it's nice to see Lindy Booth getting work again, even if it is as one-dimensional super-slut Night Bitch. (Universal)