In 2010, British director Matthew Vaughn brought to the big screen Mark Millar’s ultra-violent and provocative comic book Kick-Ass. Filled with bad language, lashings of blood and a knowing take on the superhero genre, it was generally well-received, not least Chloe Grace Moretz’s foul-mouthed Hit Girl. Kick-Ass 2 (2013), written and directed by Jeff Wadlow, arrived in theatres amidst controversy early in the year when star Jim Carrey distanced himself from the picture’s violent content. Sadly, it lacks the verve shown by the previous outing and has lost the original’s spark and wit whilst increasing the crudeness.
The plot centres on the double-lived Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy Macready (Moretz) as they attempt to come to terms with the events of the first Kick-Ass film. Whilst Mindy tries to integrate into normal teen society, Dave is itching to get back to crime-fighting. He joins up with a team of costumed heroes – ‘Justice Forever’ – inspired by his actions and led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey). They spend much of their time patrolling the streets of New York but face a sterner test with the rise of self-styled supervillain The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). It’s a fairly standard motivation – the desire to avenge a murdered father – that sees Mintz-Plasse’s ex-hero, Chris D’Amico, morph into a full-on baddie.
A general lack of engagement with forming compelling character arcs is a major failing of Wadlow’s script for Kick-Ass 2. What’s more, neither of the film’s central duo are provided with anything like the material present in Jane Goldman’s screenplay for the original. Everything is hampered by a superficiality that means proceedings lack heft even when dealing with weightier themes. The humour also disappoints. Gone is the knowing deconstruction of genre whilst also providing a satisfying narrative within its conventions. Things feel more like lampoon than pastiche whilst the gags descend further and further into the infantile with dick and fart jokes abounding.
Despite this, the film never manages to emulate the shock factor of Hit-Girl’s now immortal c-bomb dropping line in its predecessor. When she’s suited up, though, Moretz is still a joy to watch and Mintz-Plasse clearly had great fun as the weedy antagonist. The cruder, scatter-shot comedy does hit the spot on occasion – Colonel Stars and Stripes’ groin-chomping canine companion Eisenhower, for instance – and Wadlow’s exorcism of the source material’s more deplorable elements seems well-judged. None of this, however, is enough to save Kick-Ass 2 from being a largely forgettable piece, especially when compared to its plucky forebear.