Friday, March 28, 2014

Kick-Ass 2

Directed by Jeff Wadlow.
2013. Rated R, 103 minutes.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Donald Faison
Lindy Booth
Olga Kurkulina
Augustus Prew

After his exploits in the first movie, David Lizewski (Taylor-Johnson) is no longer fighting crime as his alter-ego Kick-Ass. These days, he's just trying to lead a normal life. Meanwhile, Mindy Macready (Moretz), or Hit Girl, is vigorously training for her return to action. Finding normal life a bore, David relents and starts working out with Hit Girl and the two decide to form a team. She's got issues of her own, though. Emotionally, she is torn between honoring her father's dying wish for her to continue his life's work as a superhero and her guardian, Det. Marcus Williams' warnings about the inappropriateness, illegality, and pure danger of that lifestyle. She opts out of the crime-fighting business. Still, David is in luck. Through some rigorous internet searching he hooks up with a group of superheroes calling themselves Justice Forever, headed by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey). Of course, things aren't all hunky-dory. The main issue is that Chris D'Amico (Mintz-Plasse), aka Red Mist from the first movie is really pissed about how things turned out in that initial flick. With lots of money at his disposal, he recreates himself as a super-villain and starts putting together his own team for the sole purpose of killing Kick-Ass.

Hit Girl's personal conflict takes up as much of the spotlight as Kick-Ass, if not more. It's just as well since Chloe Grace Moretz is clearly a better actor than Aaron Taylor-Johnson. In an ultra-violent superhero flick built upon trying to apply comic sensibilities to our world, she brings real depth and weight to her character. It's a character given more room to breath as she isn't boxed into reacting to Nicolas Cage this time around. To really sell it, though, she has to convincingly handle the physical aspects of her role. She does so very well. I'd argue hers is the most physically demanding role in the movie and she pulls it off without a hitch.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse is another highlight as our bad guy. Understandably, some viewers may be annoyed by him, but I think that's what the movie is going for. He's a class A Jerk, a privileged brat, remorselessly evil, and at least a little racist. The gallery of criminals he hires is a fun collection of baddies he identifies by stereotyping their ethnicity. The most prominent of these people is Mother Russia (Kurkulina). In my review of Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 2 I noted there is a character who looks like Drago from Rocky IV with boobs. Mother Russia is the live action embodiment of that. Combine this with her flat out ruthlessness and she might be the scariest woman you've ever seen.

Like it's predecessor, Kick-Ass 2 is a sharp spoof of superhero culture, both on the page and the screen. Lots of the dialogue is simplistic, slogan filled, and declaritive. It sounds like it, but it is not lazy writing. In fact, I'd say it's the exact opposite because it's going out of its way to sound that way. It's the way comic book characters often speak. Going back to our bad guy, he does this and laces every tirade with profanity. That demonstrates how much of a spoiled brat he is and that he's part of a reality closer to our own than The Avengers. As far as his use of stereotypes, it is jab at the way non-Anglo characters have been portrayed since the inception of comic books. Look back at the history of non-traditional (read: not white) characters in not just comics, but pop culture at large, and you'll see lots of stereotyping. John Leguizamo, as Chris' driver/helper/friend calls him on it. To this he responds with a line calling them archetypes which perfectly echoes the excuses used for how these people are portrayed.

Alongside broader topics such as those, KA2 narrows its focus a bit and targets the superhero team. The Watchmen seems to be the biggest target. This is ironic because that movie, and the graphic novel it's based on, essentially tries to do the same thing as KA2, bring superheroes nearer to our reality. The Watchmen just goes about the task in a somberly and as an intense examination of this world. KA2 flips things around to focus more on the superhero world and does it in a comedic manner.

I know. I know. I've seen the scores on and The people who get paid to have an opinion on this sort of thing hate this movie. Many of my fellow hobbyists who just blog about movies are in agreement with the pros. I just can't follow the flock on this one. Is it as good as the original? No. Personally, I'm on record grading it as a classic so there is almost no way this could reach that lofty status. However, I still find it to be highly entertaining and way smarter than it has been given credit for being. Like Nicolas Cage in the first movie, Chloe Grace Moretz hits it out of the park with what is already a massively underappreciated performance, in my book. And yes, I would welcome a Kick-Ass 3.

MY SCORE: 7.5/10

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