Like it or not – the sequel to Kick-Ass is upon us, and with a slightly cheap looking trailer and a director downgrade (apologies to any fans of Never Back Down), you’d be excused for entering it with middling expectations. Does part deux squeeze the joke udder dry or does it inject the cult favourite with a new shot of adrenaline?
Since we last saw Dave ‘Kick-Ass’ Lizewski and Mindy ‘Hit Girl’ Macready not much has changed – the former has slumped back to his dorky, under-achieving ways and the latter is still a butt-whooping potty-mouthed schoolgirl approaching puberty. Meanwhile Chris ‘Red Mist’ D’Amico is mourning his crime-lord father and, after killing his mother in a freak sunbed accident, decides to return to the world of supervillainy, only this time clothed in strangely gimp-like attire and with a brand-spanking new nickname – The Motherfucker. It’s convenient timing then that Dave, seemingly out of nowhere, decides to get off the couch and back into his ill-fitting suit with the no-bullshit assistance of Hit-Girl.
The film doesn’t seem desperate to get going and, to begin with, it seems to suffer from a classic case of sequel-itus. The characters’ motivations feel forced and subservient to narrative devices, but once the first slab of brutal action is delivered the fears of an unworthy sequel are beaten to an irrelevant pulp. It’s at this moment that the joyful memories of the first film come flooding back with its thrilling blend of black humour and crimson bloodshed.
There are some new faces this time round, most notably that of Jim Carrey as ex-mafia vigilante Colonel Stars and Stripes who has a deranged grin and a dick-eating dog. There’s also the terrifying seven-foot stereotype Mother Russia, the worryingly gentle and inexperienced Dr Gravity and the tastefully named Night Bitch who, with a flutter of the eyelashes, becomes the main love interest. There’s an abundance of other supporting characters and this almost lends the film an unwelcome sense of character overload. It isn’t a huge problem, it’s just that, although nearly all of them are humorously imagined in their own way, some of them feel irrelevant and could have been disposed of in favour of a more focused narrative.
Performance-wise it’s a pleasure to behold with Johnson making for a solid protagonist and the ever-charismatic Moretz evidently relishing every second of screen time. Carrey is absolutely fantastic and seems to be having the most fun he’s had since Liar Liar (although his negative reaction to the film may prove otherwise). However, it’s a shame that his performance serves more as a comical and short-lived cameo than a truly crucial member of the ensemble.
Considering the shift in creative control it’s a wonder that the tone of the original survives as well as it does and, after an onslaught of Marvel snooze-fests (that opinion is solely Jonah’s and not the general opinion of Geektown – Dave, Editor ;)), it’s truly refreshing to have its youthful zeal back on the big-screen. Wadlow gets the mood of the film almost spot on, but there are a couple of instances where it borders on feeling schizophrenic. The film constantly reminds us that what we’re watching is a form of hyper-real escapism but from time to time it’s maniacal smirk spasms into a stone-faced scowl and we’re confronted with moments of genuine bleakness. The original had these tonal shifts as well, and it’s fine to cut through the humour with some drama, but here it’s quite jarring and feels like indecisive storytelling.
But Kick-Ass 2 very rarely misses its mark and, at its best, it’s the very epitome of comic book entertainment. The fight choreography is spectacularly and ingeniously executed (with a strong emphasis on ‘execute’), the pacing is relentless and only occasionally dips and the laugh-count is just as calculated and consistent as Hit-Girl’s kill rate. There are even some gross-out moments which threaten to penetrate the decency threshold, but thanks to the film’s charming audacity it manages to escape unscathed.
Simply put – Kick-Ass 2 exceeds its predecessor with a dense story, a fantastic array of new characters, more than a fistful of hearty belly laughs and enough knowing nods and visual flair to get the spirit of your inner fanboy soaring.