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Kick-Ass 2
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not A Hit Girl, Not Yet A Hit Woman"
1 stars

One of the running jokes in "Kick-Ass 2" involves the sight of a shark tank whose inhabitant, thanks to the carelessness of its owner, spends most of the film lying immobile at its bottom. As it turns out, this element proves to be a fairly spot-on metaphor for the films as a whole in that both are theoretically fascinating agents of violent fury that have been rendered inert thanks to woeful mishandling. The only real difference is that at the very end, one of them finally and unexpectedly springs to life but--Spoiler Alert!--it certainly isn't the movie. I was tempted to extend this opening gambit by making some reference to Woody Allen's classic bit in "Annie Hall" about a relationship being like a shark and that what he has is a dead shark but really, why tarnish the memory of that delightful, life-changing classic by relating it, however tangentially, to this kind of odious , soul-sucking garbage?

For those of you whose busy schedules were somehow unable to make time to catch the original "Kick-Ass" in theaters, it was a super-violent superhero spoof that dared to ask the question "What would happen if an ordinary person decided to dress up in a goofball costume and fight crime as a real-life superhero?" In the case of gawky high-schooler Dave (Aaron Johnson), it meant any receiving any number of savage beatings and painful injuries in his inept attempts to fight for justice as Kick-Ass. In the case of the father-daughter duo of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), the combination of precision training and enough weaponry to earn positions as neighborhood watch-people in Florida, they were able to gruesomely decimate the bad guys and when Big Daddy met an ugly death, Hit Girl--in reality a 12-year-old girl named Mindy--teamed up with Kick-Ass to dispatch the remaining baddies in bloody ways with a bazooka to the chest of the evil crime boss as the final coup de grace.

Set a couple of years after the previous installment, "Kick-Ass 2" begins with Dave, who has stepped out of the crime-fighting arena, itching for some excitement to combat his daily boredom and Mindy ditching school daily to surreptitiously continue her Hit Girl hijinks. Before long, the two have decided to officially team but after their first adventure goes askew, Mindy is forced to give up her cape and costume and embark upon the equally terrifying and perilous life of an ordinary teenage girl who gets on the wrong side of the school's mean girl clique. As for Dave, he scouts around on line discovers a group of self-styled superheroes led by a former mob enforcer-turned-born again Christian known as Stars & Stripes (Jim Carrey), a genial lunatic who brutalizes bad guys with the same fervor that he brings to insisting that the other members of the group refrain from swearing. Soon, the gang is beating criminals senseless, freeing women kidnapped into the international sex trade and Dave even gets a little nookie on the side from fellow hero Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), who likes for them to do it with their masks on as a form of kink.

What Dave doesn't yet realize is that Kick-Ass has already attract a powerful enemy in the form of Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the twisted son of the mob boss who was at the receiving end of that aforementioned bazooka shot. Formerly known as the faux-hero Red Mist, Chris decides to get revenge on Kick-Ass by using the unlimited resources of his late father to fund a army of henchmen (money, in effect, is his superpower) and utilizing the leftover bondage gear belonging to his recently deceased mother to lead them as the first real super-villain (Donald Trump notwithstanding), known by a name that cannot be printed here but which you can probably guess. It all leads, as such things must, to an enormous final battle in which oddly costumed people beat the holy hell out of each other--the difference being that instead of shrugging off their injuries, these combatants bleed, scream and break their bones along the way in ways that never really seem to occur to most superheroes.

Because of its smug tone and over-the-top violence, including scenes involving a 12-year-old girl either being beaten senseless or straight-up murdering dozens of people in scenes meant to evoke ironic laughter from jaded viewers, I really disliked the original "Kick-Ass." In fact, I was so put off by it that I actually went back to see it again on the off-chance that I was just having a bad day and that I just missed something fundamental about it that caused such a reaction. I still hated it the second time around but I was able to at least appreciate its two undeniable standout elements. One was the breakout performance by rising young actress Chloe Grace Moretz--despite the sordidness of her surroundings, she was such a mesmerizing presence throughout that the nominal central character of Kick-Ass found himself pushed to the side whenever she was on the screen and many times when she wasn't. The other was the hilarious supporting turn by Nicolas Cage as her father/trainer/sidekick Big Daddy--if ever there was an actor born to appear in a scene in which he plays a character who shoots his daughter point-blank to test her bulletproof vest (in the film's most notorious and amusing moment), it is Cage.

I pretty much hated "Kick-Ass 2" as well but since it falls within the parameters of ordinary awfulness, I am fairly certain that a second viewing will not be necessary. This is one of those pro forma sequels that, having gotten all of the setup stuff out of the way in the first installment, could have launched itself into any number of new and intriguing areas but instead chooses to merely offer up a virtual beat-for-beat retread of the previous film. This becomes painfully obvious right from the very start as writer-director Jeff Wadlow (the auteur of "Cry_Wolf" and "Never Back Down," replacing Matthew Vaughn) kicks off the story with a virtual repeat of the daddy/daughter/bulletproof vest moment from the first, this time featuring Mindy unloading a gun into Dave. From then on, it pretty much retells the entire story with only a couple of minor changes, such as Mindy's misadventures in high school and Dave hooking up with the superhero group to patrol the streets. By shifting the focus away from Dave for large portions of the story in order to follow Mindy's angst and the other vigilantes, Wadlow seems to be addressing one of the original's biggest flaws--the fact that neither Dave nor his alter-ego are particularly engaging or interesting--while trying to make viewers forget that Johnson, despite the blandness he brings to the role, is now way too old for the part.

These diversions might have made more sense if they built to something but neither one really goes anywhere. Mindy's school adventures have a promising idea behind them--how does a super-heroine deal with someone who is as cruel and malicious as any criminal mastermind when the option of beating them to a pulp is out?--but peters out after a while and can only offer a lame climactic gag involving the graphic depiction of several of the less appetizing bodily functions. Likewise, the heroic collective that Dave joins sounds like a funny idea at first and even offers up one bracingly sober notion in the presentation of a married super-duo trying to clean up the streets in the memory of their long-missing child. Unfortunately, aside from a few off-beat moments from Carrey (whose role here is far briefer than the ads suggest), none of them make much of an impression and during the final melee, they pretty much all get lost in the shuffle.

Other than that, "Kick-Ass 2" is just more of the same and in this case, that is not good news. Both Johnson and Mintz-Plasse are bores, their respective sidekicks are largely nondescript and Moretz sails so far above the material that she has been given to work with that you get the sense that, much like Hit Girl herself, if she can survive this, she can pretty much survive anything. The action scenes are indifferently staged and poorly executed and are distinguished only by the fairly appalling levels of brutality and gore on display. Now I am not offended by blood and violence in theory nor do I think that movies of this type should not contain such elements. I only insist that there be some kind of point to it all and there is none of that here--skulls are cracked, limbs are severed, people are tortured and all of this carnage is presented with all of the elegance and flair of a little kid trying to get a rise out his parents by showing his chewed-up food at the dinner table. Likewise, the movie is also unrelentingly vulgar throughout and to make matters worse, it delivers its more offensive remarks with a self-conscious wink that indicates that it knows that it is trying shock viewers by using racist and sexist jokes as a way of being "edgy."

Those of you with long memories will recall that when the original "Kick-Ass" came out in 2010, it premiered with an avalanche of fanboy hype that did not exactly translate when it came to getting people to actually plunk down money to see it. However, it did become somewhat of a cult item and made enough money on DVD to convince Universal that a follow-up was a viable option. (Hey, it worked for that landmark classic "The Boondock Saints II," didn't it?) However, even those who were genuinely clamoring for the existence of "Kick-Ass 2" are liable find it to be about as outrageous and transgressive as a Diet Mountain Dew (though perhaps slightly easier to stomach) and by the time it finally limps to its conclusion (much like most of its cast of characters by that point), it is highly unlikely that most of them will come away with it feeling the urge to see a "Kick-Ass 3" anytime soon. Now a Hit Girl movie. . .hell, even I might be able to work up some enthusiasm for that.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=24290&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/15/13 16:01:14
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User Comments

2/01/14 mr.mike Decent home vid rental. 3.5 stars 3 stars
10/15/13 Carl I loved the 1st film but this was just pure crap. 1 stars
8/23/13 Flipsider No. 1 stars
8/20/13 Man Out Six Bucks SUPER will always Kick-Ass better than this cartoonish serial 3 stars
8/17/13 Marty Plus acting, drama paced awkwardly, but fun and uberviolent 3 stars
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  16-Aug-2013 (R)
  DVD: 17-Dec-2013

  14-Aug-2013 (15)


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