Director: Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey
Running Time: 103 minutes
Release Date: August 14
Satire and parody are tricky old things. Get them on the nose and great, yet, fail to hit your target and you’ll likely end up reinforcing what it was you intended on mocking in the first place. Kick-Ass got it just about right, showing love for the breezy Stan Lee narration of early Spider-Man paperbacks but infusing it with Nicolas Winding Refn levels of violence. A modest success—about $100m on a $30 budget—a sequel was inevitable, particularly with comic book scribe Mark Millar firing out two new titles in quick succession.
And in accordance with the superhero sequel convention, Kick-Ass 2 has to deliver more of the same but darker. Sequels always have to be darker. Stakes are now higher and the violence is just that bit less comic book in its limb removing execution. We’re pummelled relentlessly with the meta-hammer that this isn’t a comic book, people can die, and die they do—fathers, mothers, cops and civilians are all chum for the meat grinder.
Following not long after its predecessor, Kick-Ass 2 deals with its fallout; the rise of Chris D’Amico (the reliable yet uninspiring Christopher Mintz-Plasse) as he takes over his father’s empire as crudely rebranded The Motherfucker, and Hit-Girl dealing with the most heinous villains out there; brusque and bitchy teenage girls. Meanwhile Kick-Ass is testing the team-up waters with a bunch of new characters that are as shoddily written as their costumes are flimsy.
With Matthew Vaughan and his writing cohort Jane Goldman, so adroit at pop culture adaptation, on the benches, Never Back Down director Jeff Wadlow steps into to adapt Millar’s broad parody, dropping the ball repeatedly. None more so egregious than the wasting of the magnificently talented Chloë Grace Moretz who is airdropped into a watered down Mean Girls, that tries to pass comment on the gratuitous sexualisation of teenage girls by bombarding you with gratuitous sexualisation of teenage girls. Its payoff, a more effects-heavy outtake from Bottom, is neither funny nor worthy of her talents. The original’s big joke—a 12-year-old swearing like Malcolm Tucker at a Lil Kim concert—is flogged to death here too, there’s C-bombs dropped, just this time in Russian.
So charming last time as meek schlub Dave Lizewski, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is now broody, bulging and volatile—like a Tallafornia cast member in a wetsuit. Then there’s the elephant-sized Nic Cage in the room. His absence is often mentioned and frequently lacking. Jim Carrey reluctantly takes a pop as born again Christian Colonel Stars and Stripes but his appearance is no more than glorified cameo and has none of the up for it daftness that made that made Cage’s Adam West aping so transcendent.
There’s some fun to be had; Moretz is a pleasure and surely a career to heed close attention to while villain Mother Russia, who looks like Ivan Drago after a sex change, is delightfully silly. As for the rest of the unfunny, un-PC named bad guys, well, when you pine for the return of Jason Flemyng and Dexter Fletcher, you know there’s something grossly wrong. Wadlow brings none of the flash Vaughan had to the action sequences, nothing as inventive as the strobe sequence and a cheap unimaginative warehouse finale is no more than an asinine bobbery. Millar’s source material is base at best and without Goldman and Vaughan to scrub it of all its nihilistic ugliness, what’s left is neither amusing or arresting.