Kick-Ass 2 is an incredibly misleading title.
It’s a title that implies the protagonist of this film is Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a mild mannered, unspectacular high school student named Dave Lizewski who lead a revolution by being the first “real world” superhero. But don’t let the name fool you. Lizewski isn’t the star of this film. His fellow classmate and crime fighter Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz), who moonlights as the utterly captivating and slightly terrifying foul-mouthed do-gooder Hit-Girl, is the true star.
Every moment that Moretz is on the screen is pure gold. Somehow, even though she is hampered by a fairly clichéd subplot involving a clique of popular high school girls who decide to torment Macready for being too much of an alpha female, Moretz navigates her way through the potentially boring and overly familiar plotline and somehow makes it work. Her attempt to give up the life of being Hit-Girl in order to respect the wishes of Marcus (Morris Chestnut), her father’s old partner and the man who adopted her after her dad’s death, is the emotional center of the film.
Meanwhile, Lizewski, after unsuccessfully trying to convince Macready to be his partner, finds a group of superheroes meeting at a secret lair in the city. The team is lead by a former thug turned do-gooder named Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). While Colonel Stars and Stripes, as the name suggests, is looking for an intense militarized squad, his teammates don’t all share his intensity and convictions.
One of the most disappointing things about Lizewski’s story arc is that his girlfriend from the first film Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) dumps him rather unceremoniously in the beginning of the film. I enjoyed Fonseca in the first film and her relationship with Taylor-Johnson was much more engaging than his romantic relationship with his crimefighting teammate Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) in this film.
It’s not just Hit-Girl that outshines Kick-Ass in this film. Even amongst his new group, he is the least compelling character. His fellow members Insect Man (Robert Emms), Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) and Battle Guy (Clark Duke) are all more fun to watch. Even Eisenhower the dog (Cinna) has more personality than the writers give Kick-Ass.
While Kick-Ass falls in with a superhero team, his old partner Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who went by the name Red Mist in the first film, has decided to become the world’s first supervillian. D’Amico’s father, who was a drug kingpin, was killed by Kick-Ass in the first film, so he decides to form a supervillain team of his own and to rebrand himself as The Motherfucker. The rest of his squad is an international collection of hired thugs with ethnic names that make them sound like 80s wrestlers, the most compelling of which is Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina), a towering and ruthless Russian bad ass who takes out most of the people in their path single-handedly.
Mintz-Plasse is really fun as the film’s villain. He obviously doesn’t have the physicality to be an imposing figure, but with a seemingly endless supply of cash at his disposal, he is able to hire Chuck Lidell to train him and hire the toughest mercenaries around to protect him. He’s also the perfect foe for Kick-Ass to do battle with while the rest of his team takes care of the heavy hitters.
The fight scenes are all intense and, while enjoyable, are occasionally quite difficult to watch. There is a visceral, unrelenting tone to most of the violence, which seems appropriate since the film presents itself as a real world superhero film. While they never shy away from the violence, they do a good job injecting levity into the film to keep it from ever getting too dark.
Overall, I really enjoyed the tone of the film and the variety of colorful and unique characters it presents. With the high saturation of superhero movies out there today, it’s often hard to stand out. But Kick-Ass 2, like its predecessor, has personality in spades and it doesn’t quite feel like any other superhero movie out there, even if many of the themes or story beats are the same.
If you enjoy the genre and liked the first film, you’ll enjoy Kick-Ass 2. Just know that the least-compelling character in it is the guy whose name is on the marque.