Fighting For Justice and Their Adolescence
It seems peculiar and somehow fitting that Kick-Ass 2, and its predecessor, 2010’s surprisingly spunky Kick-Ass, isn’t named after its more alluring, and now sexually matured character Hit Girl. Played by the increasingly popular Chloe Grace Moretz, Hit Girl, and alter ego (or vice versa) Mindy Macready, embraces violence and beating baddies to a pulp as much as her fallen father Big Daddy (played by Nicholas Cage) fetishized his crowded walls of mounted pistols. In that punchy, loud and gory first film of average kids turned superheroes, a heated dialogue arose over the limits of on-screen violence regarding just a then 11-year-old girl. How could that cute little smile with ponytails spawn so much fatalistic aggression and receive it, too?
Now she’s 15, and that once winking pipsqueak of hurt has lost its parodic effect. It may be why writer-director Jeff Wadlow, carrying- and stumbling with- the torch from director Matthew Vaughn, tries to tone down some of that violence for his characters to discover their place in the high school food chain. Supposedly at the top of the hierarchy is now senior Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), aka Kick-Ass, still donning the green and gold wet suit, inspiring many others to fight crime and wear brightly colored spandex.
Mindy opens the film strength training Dave and firing gunshots into his bulletproof vest but then that all comes to a sudden halt. Morris Chestnut as a policeman and Mindy’s surrogate father makes her promise to end her reign as Hit Girl and return to having a normal high school experience. It’s there the movie becomes a scattered and ultimately undefined compilation of ideas. Mindy enters into a bizarre Mean Girls experiment meant to convey her newly budding adolescence. Meanwhile, Dave, without his young mentor, scans the streets to team up with other superhero derivatives, just briefly considering the potentially important notion of his future realizing this is his last year of high school.
He eventually finds an underground group of vigilantes for justice, a team including Donald Faison, a girl who calls herself Nightbitch, and Jim Carrey playing a character named Colonel Stars and Stripes. Carrey, in a camo-jacket and unrecognizable voice, campaigned against this film’s use of gun violence in light of Sandy Hook, refusing to do press the past few weeks. The irony is that his character, receiving little screen time, carries an unloaded gun and relies upon physical combat. What is this group fighting for? Ostensibly for some subjective idea of justice, but individually, the motivations to subvert drug rings and face men twice their strength never feels justified to themselves.
The only motivation that eventually pops up comes from Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the pale-faced spoiled brat who seeks revenge against Kick-Ass for his father’s death. He sheds his Red Mist masquerade for a quite fitting super-villain name “The Motherfucker,” and quickly rustles up the biggest and baddest to join his side, aided by guardian and servant John Leguizamo. Their chemistry is the best thing this sequel has going for it, but even its mocking nature of comic tropes turn ugly. At one point, Chris creates villain names for the diverse ethnic baddies he hires, claiming that “Genghis Carnage” and “Mother Russia” are “archetypes, not stereotypes.” This movie wants to follow his lead, marginalizing Chestnut and Leguizamo into parental roles with little to say as figures of strict punishment. It’s not hard to see the only minorities are treated as such.
Wadlow has nothing unique to say here and it becomes evident that this sequel is just a slightly watered down, lower energy appeal to continue a franchise. It becomes clearer when the camera zooms slowly up at Big Daddy’s batman suit as if to preserve his memory every twenty minutes. Or to follow Dave’s lingering uncertainty as to whether he should continue being Kick-Ass, a dilemma he’s circled endlessly before.
By the end, when Chris and his leather-strapped nightclub of weirdos battle the do-gooders in classic amputating, blood-spurting fashion, you begin to realize why Wadlow so purposefully became transfixed with filming Big Daddy’s suit. If nothing else, he was attempting to retrieve Nicholas Cage back from the dead, so that in all of this already chaotic death, he could at least bring life and meaning to it again.
But Mindy has grown up. She’s an independent high schooler, driving a motorcycle, psychotically raised yet self-assured, and fearless in a dark alley. For some reason, Wadlow doesn’t find that very interesting. The sequel refuses to grow up with her.