Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Clark Duke, Lindy Booth, and Donal Faison. Written and Directed by Jeff Wadlow and Produced by Matthew Vaughn. Based on the work of Mark Millar.
In 2010 Kick-Ass was somewhat of a surprise hit film. The comic book movie, about the not quite a superhero with the not quite so vulgar name worked its way into the pop culture zeitgeist and managed to turbo charge the careers of three of its young stars and remind everyone why they love Nicholas Cage (no matter how insane he is). The film was based on a great premise: what if someone who read all the same comic books we love like Batman or Spider-Man dressed up in a costume and tried to fight crime? The world became enamored with the video exploits of the skinny boy in the green and yellow scuba suit with the escrima sticks who is beaten to a pulp more often than not. His beating at the hands of a series of thugs left him with damaged nerve endings and therefore with the ability to take more punishment in a fight than the average human being.
He learned he was not the only person in the world with the idea to become a superhero when he was approached by Damon McCready (Nicholas Cage – Con Air, Ghost Rider) and his daughter Mindy (Chloe Moretz – Let Me In, Carrie) who were waging a personal vigilante war against the New York City mob as Big Daddy and Hit Girl. The film also focused on the grim consequences that would befall such a scenario. They were joined then betrayed by another wannabe superhero The Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who was actually the son of mob boss Frank D’Amico, which led to the murder of Big Daddy and the ultimate death of Frank at the hands of Kick-Ass.
In Kick-Ass 2 the exploits of that young man, David Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson – Savages, Anna Karenina), have become legendary. Kick-Ass has spawned a legion of every day folks to put on costumes and help keep the streets of New York safe. This occurs even though David has hung up his mask. Hit Girl on the other hand has not. Now living with the former NYPD partner of her father, Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut – Think Like A Man, Identity Thief) she sneaks off from school daily to train and continue the work of her father. Soon she manages to enlist David who is finding life as a normal High School Senior maddeningly boring and Mindy begins to mentor him, training him to be a true superhero.
This counterpoints the life being led by Chris D’Amico on Long Island where he is essentially being raised by his bodyguard, Javier (John Leguizamo – Die Hard 2, To Wong Foo…) Chris is determined to make good on his on his closing credits promise from the first film to become the world’s first super villain. Once given access to his inheritance which includes a pair of chrome and gold guns as well as an incredible amount of cash. He re-dubs himself as The MotherFucker and proceeds to collect a series of psychopaths to train him as well as, maim and murder for him. The most formidable of his henchmen is a monstrous, possibly cannibal former KGB agent called Mother Russia.
This team is meant to counteract all of the new superheros who are coming together and forming a team with Kick-Ass called Justice Forever. Justice Forever features a number of different heroes all with different motivations for being involved but their unequivocal leader is Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey – The Truman Show, The Majestic). Using a patriotically painted axe handle and a dog named Eisenhower he takes the ragtag group of wannabes and makes them into a legitimate fighting force. It is the “natural evolution” of the events portrayed in the first film and that idea of if there are superheroes then someone will rise to be a super villain.
The anticipation for this second film is interesting because many fans of the original film have realized that Matthew Vaughn’s (X:Men First Class, Stardust) adaptation took the more disturbing portions of the comics and made them more palatable. The worry was that with Vaughn busy working on X-Men: Days of Future Past (he has since been replaced by Bryan Singer) young writer/director Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) would go for a more direct adaptation than was done with the original film. As with any work that originated as a comic by Mark Millar fans know that, like the first film, there are many scenes that occur in the Kick-Ass 2 books that can be brought over easily but some that would be truly repulsive to watch. In fact, in an interview on Cinemax, Wadlow said he wrote a direct adaptation with every scene from the books in the script. He then watched the first film back to back to back. After the marathon he was able to sculpt a film that hit all the notes but stayed true to the original.
There is a horrific sequence in the book that is often asked about and without spoiling the film … that scene does not play out as it does in the books. Christopher Mintz-Plasse did not want to do that scene, the filmmakers knew they should change it and they did. Credit should also be given to a few standout elements like the heartfelt origins of Remembering Tommy, a husband and wife superhero team, and Insect Man. That said the best moments of the film belong to Chloe Moretz. She spends most of her arc trying to balance the life she’s promised she’d live as Mindy and the personal calling to do what she’s great at stopping crime. Chloe’s involvement has been one of the most buzzed about elements of both films. The language used by her character as well as her proficiency at killing her enemies and the glee she seems to take in both are very difficult for certain audience members. They just cannot handle the image of a little girl committing acts of such violence. I think that a lot of Mindy’s arc is meant to speak to this idea and Moretz does an excellent job mining her emotions, facial twitches and gestures to show how she is changing from a girl into woman.
Many in the audience were bemusing the idea of a Hit Girl spinoff and since Millar did create a standalone series for her that does not seem totally outside the realm of possibility. This is a character that I think can be explored further and in her own standalone film or as the lead with Kick-Ass more in the backup role would be a lot of fun to watch. These films are meant to showcase a subversive take on the super hero genre, and Kick-Ass 2 does not disappoint. Its got a ton of blood, some really gross sequences and a lot of winks to the audience. To call it a comedy is unfair because the film does have legitimate dramatic stakes but its still a fun flick. If you were a fan of the first this is the sequel you wanted.