Movie Review: “Kick-Ass 2″

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ATJ and Chole Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass 2

Green and purple make bruised.

At the end of the first “Kick-Ass,” the heroes and villains alike were left to deal with the violent aftermath they created.

Our primary champion of justice, the green-and-yellow-suited, baton-wielding, teenage Kick-Ass (aka – Dave Lizewski), along with the aid of the unnecessarily violent, purple-wig-wearing, foul-mouthed, pre-teen Hit-Girl (aka – Mindy McCready) had just put a

stop to the evil ways of their archenemy, mob boss Frank D’Amico (a non-returning

Tension-filled moment between ATJ and CMP

… with a knife, I tell ya.

Mark Strong… cuz he’s dead, by shooting him with a bazooka. This in turn, sent him flying out of a skyscraper window, where he was eventually blown into bits in a mid-air explosion over the streets of New York City.

So, basically, the good guys stuck it the bad guys and all is well, right?

Well, on the surface, everything seemed to be a-ok. However, if Kick-Ass and company have taught us anything, it’s that it’s not what’s on the surface that matters. It’s what’s beneath the surface that makes a difference. Or in this particular case, what’s behind the mask.

In “Kick-Ass 2,” the sequel to 2010’s ultra-violent, superhero action/fantasy (adapted from Mark Millar’s equally violent, cult, comic book series of the same name), life slows down a little for Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl. Answering more to their government names (again, it’s Dave and Mindy) than by their aliases, they both are forced to buckle down and focus on conquering the one place where real evil lurks – high school.

Dave (English actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson – reprising his role) is itching to put that itchy spandex costume back on, but can’t risk letting his worrisome father and his two best friends (Marty and Todd) find out that he is actually the amateur superman and YouTube sensation, Kick-Ass. On the other hand, Mindy (the sublime Chloe Grace Moretz, who also reprises her part and is becoming a full-blown star right before our very eyes) is still mourning the death of her superhero father AND mentor, Big Daddy (played by a howling-mad Nicolas Cage in the first film) and, at the request of her father’s posthumous wishes, she goes to live with her his best friend and former partner, Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut who takes over the role from Omari Hardwick).

It doesn’t take long for the two of them to start skipping school together and secretly meeting for “training sessions.”  This includes Mindy shooting Dave with handguns – at least he’s sporting a bulletproof vest – and sending him out to “go fishing,” which entails Dave wearing a pimp outfit and carrying fake shopping bags, so hugs will attack him and he can practice kicking their ass. Needless to say, Mindy can’t help herself and eventually intervenes in full Hit-Girl regalia, at which

Aaron Taylor-Johnson in full Kick-Ass regalia

Hiiiiiii ya!

point the thugs don’t fare to well. This leads to the cops being called to the crime scene and (in a scene that mimics the sequence from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” where Matthew Broderick races his parents home) Mindy gets busted by Marcus, who forces her to promise him – in the memory of her father – that she will NEVER dress-up as Hit-Girl again. She agrees, reluctantly hangs up her double-edged staff and shiny, violet costume, and swears-off the vigilante life for good. Or does she?

Dave, on the other hand, manages to avoid the cops as well, but he has no such desire to hang up his hero attire (that rhymed). After realizing that Mindy no longer wants to be his super friend (At one point, Kick-Ass fancied himself as the Robin to Hit-Girl’s Batman, to which she replied, “Nobody wants to be Robin… Robin wishes he was me.” – what a bad-ass she is), both Dave and Kick-Ass are forced to go their separate ways – alone… but, not for long.

Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico (aka – Red Mist) – the co-villain from the first film, who also happens to be the son of mob boss Frank, isn’t adjusting so well to both life without his father and life with Kick-Ass still walking around alive and kicking… umm… ass. He wants his revenge, badly. However, his Mom doesn’t want to hear it. She made Chris (played with a wide-eyed fervor by the returning Christopher Mintz-Plasse) relocate with her to a house in Long Island, nags him about getting an education, and threw his Red Mist outfit in the trash. Needless to say, Chris is pissed about it and due to an unfortunate incident involving his mother and a tanning bed; Chris is now a pissed-off orphan.

With the help of Javier (played by John Lequizamo),  the family bodyguard who becomes the “Alfred to his evil Bruce Wayne,” Chris discovers a small, fancy box containing his dead gangster papa’s pair of chromed-out, customized hand cannons, as well as another box next to it, filled with

Christopher Mintz-Plasse as The Motherf**ker

I knew I shouldn’t have agreed to do the “Superbad” sequel, especially after I found out it would be called “Superdrag.”

whips, chains, latex suits and… umm… beads. Using the content of these two boxes of questionable treasure, he comes to a revenge-laden conclusion – he’s going to become the world’s first super villain, so he can destroy Kick-Ass, not to mention, have a little fun to boot.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot the most important part of Chris’ epiphany. He no longer refers to himself as Red Mist. His new name… wait for it… is The Motherf**ker. And if the name wasn’t raunchy enough, his costume is fashioned from bits and pieces of his dead parents’ S&M apparel, he found in that box. I’m not gonna lie, the outfit is actually pretty cool, but something tells me that I will not be seeing any MF’er likenesses in the action figure aisle at Toys R Us anytime soon – just a hunch.

All three of the primary players of “Kick-Ass 2,” have some level of Daddy issues that add fuel to the fire of their intentions, whether noble or otherwise. Dave’s issues with his father are the least tragic, but are still an important part of what eventually motivates him.

In the first film, Dave’s mother passed away (she died at the breakfast table, with her face buried in a bowl of cereal, from a brain aneurysm) and the family dynamic suddenly transformed from “Leave it to Beaver” into a single father trying to raise his teenage son all by himself. Dave’s father’s intentions are good, but he eventually pushes too far, which puts both his relationship with his son and his life at risk. That’s all I’m going to say about that.

Chris D’Amico’s and Mindy McCready’s daddy issues are a LITTLE more complicated than your everyday “Are you on drugs? /Where were you last night?” inquiries. Okay, a LOT more complicated. Both of their fathers were violently killed in the line of duty, so to speak, as Mindy’s pop, Big Daddy, was set on fire (in one of most over-the-top Nic Cage moments of all-time and that’s saying something) by Chris’ father in the first film. So, when you factor in the fact that Chris’ father was killed by Dave, it’s pretty much a given that this triumvirate has unfinished business with each other.

This is where “Kick-Ass 2” comes into play.

In the beginning of film one, you’re meant to feel sad for Chris D’Amico’s character and the isolation his bags of blood-stained mafia money brings him. However, at the end of “Kick-Ass,” he was just starting to gain the respect of his father and spending quality(?) time with him. Then, of course, Kick-Ass blew his daddy up with a rocket. So, by the start of film two, he’s clearly gone off the reservation. His transformation from Chris-to-Red Mist-to-The Motherf**ker is one of the more entertaining parts of “Kick-Ass” and

Mintz-Plasse and crew

Who’s bad?

“Kick-Ass 2.” He doesn’t just fill his father’s shoes. He elevates the role, by aspiring to be more than the city’s next crime boss. He vows to take the role of the Motherf**ker to the level of super villain.

Mindy’s character also does the same, except she steps into HER father’s shoes by becoming to Dave what Big Daddy was to her –a super mentor. This is evident in the very first scene when Mindy is shooting Dave in his bullet-proof vest, which is the exact same “training” that her father gave to her in the first film. Mindy’s character seems like she has now changed from superhero-in-training to superhero trainer.

Oh, but things change.

After Mindy gets caught by her guardian in her Hit-Girl suit (in the aforementioned “Ferris Bueller” scene), she makes a promise to him AND to Big Daddy (from beyond the grave that is) that she’ll never put the Hit-Girl costume on again. After telling Dave the “bad news,” the two go their separate ways; with Dave looking for a superhero team to join and Mindy out looking to join the high school dance team, instead.

The second act is where the film picks up and almost matches the frenzied pace and sense of humor that the first film displayed. I won’t ruin the level of joy that meeting the components of Kick-ass’ new team Justice Forever, brings about, but I will say that Jim Carrey and his performance as Colonel Stars and Stripes is one of the most memorable of his career. It’s right up there with his turn as Andy Kaufman from “Man on the Moon,” as far as my favorites go. I also love the Colonel’s German Sheppard, Eisenhower, who wears a patriotic mask and has an affinity for bangers and mash – you’ll see what I mean.

The rest of Justice Forever is a collection of wannabe superheroes who have no powers per se, but do have lots of heart… and sorrowful stories. However, when The Motherf**ker decides to put together a super VILLAIN team, it’s definitely filled with

Col Stars and Stripes and Justice Forever

The best Tae-Bo session of all-time.

individuals who are a tad nastier than Justice Forever, with their names that are much more fun too. That being said, the bad guy team name doesn’t exactly have a bright future with Marvel or DC, but it does have a nice ring to it.

As far as Hit-Girl’s exploits in high school, just think of these scenes like “Mean Girls” with a slightly more psychopathic edge. These scenes actually feature the most evil character in the whole film – a blond bi-atch named Brooke (Claudia Lee). I’m not saying if she gets hers in the end, but I’ll bet you can guess. As one of my esteemed colleagues pointed out, there’s a scene during this part of the proceedings that will definitely prepare Chloe Grace Moretz for her role in the upcoming “Carrie” remake.

Moretz’s performance is right up there with Mintz-Plasse as being the most diverse of the bunch – if you factor in both films, that is. As far as “Kick-Ass 2” by itself is concerned, Moretz owns the film and I wouldn’t be surprised if a spin-off movie is somewhere waiting in the wings. In short, she kicks Kick-Ass’ ass.

It’s not that Kick-Ass is NOT a great character in his own way. He is, thanks Taylor-Johnson, who brings a kind of vacuous innocence and naivety to the role. Even after all the events of the first film, Kick-Ass is still the same guy underneath the mask. He’s still insecure and unsure to what the future holds, which is a little bit of a metaphor for this film franchise. The first film was not exactly box office gold, making a little under $50 million domestically (after a $30 million budget). However, it was a critical success and the fanboys LOVED it, which gave the powers that be a reason to put a second film out for consumption.

QUICK SIDE NOTE: Pay attention fanboys – for a very short, yet sweet, scene in act two, involving Aaron Taylor-Johnson, as he sits up in bed and talks to Hit-Girl. He has a t-shirt on that reads, “I Hate Reboots.” The irony here is that Taylor-Johnson is slated to star in next year’s new “Godzilla” reboot. I wonder if the filmmakers were going for an anti-reboot sentiment regarding “Kick-Ass,” but unintentionally managed to create this controversy. Or, maybe, there was no intention there at all. We’ll find out shortly… or not.

I’ll make a bold prediction. Well, maybe not so bold, but it’s still a prediction nonetheless. This film will do about as well as the first film did, even though it’s not as good. The fanboys will still eat it up, although it’s not as dark as the comic books that it’s derived from – “Hit-Girl” and “Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall” – which apparently have some pretty gnarly scenes involving some wildly inappropriate actions. It’s pretty violent. Not as violent as Jim Carrey has been telling everybody it’s going to be AND not as violent as it could’ve been. At least that’s what the co-host of my radio show tells me.

Also, the director’s chair is filled by a different auteur in “Kick-Ass 2.” Matthew Vaughn, the first film’s director, (who also shared screenwriting credits for “Kick-Ass”) moved on to REAL superheroes, so to speak; directing “X-Men: First Class.” The proverbial reigns were turned over to Jeff Wadlow, whose only feature film credits were 2008’s MMA promotional film, “Never Back Down” and 2005’s teeny-bopper

ATJ and Chole Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass 2

Green and purple make bruised.

slasher film, “Cry_Wolf.” He is more than up to the task here, as he proves he has an emotional handle on the film’s deeper elements, as well as the more action-packed moments. He does, however, continue his penchant for promoting MMA, as there is a fight-training scene with Chris that stars former UFC star Chuck “The Iceman” Liddell – which is also quite funny, by the way.

For one, I’m glad they made a sequel to “Kick-Ass.” Although part two didn’t have the satirical quality that the first one, it did create some memorable characters (with even better names) and also managed to tackle some poignant issues – especially the aforementioned daddy issues, as well as Mindy’s sexual awakening as a 15-year old high school girl. The scene involving the fake One Direction knockoff group called Union J AND their fake pop song (“I’ll Carry You”) was priceless. Actually, I just found out the group was a real quartet. The whole gag seems less funny now.

So, what is my final prediction then?

Well, I’m not sure. Ask me after “Kick-Ass 3.” Or maybe I’ll just wait for the “Hit-Girl” spin-off to answer.

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