Welcome to the first edition of DVR reviews. Twice a week I review a film that was overlooked, underrated, or just a film you might only catch on cable on a boring Saturday afternoon. This review explores Kick-Ass 2, the 2013 sequel to the 2010 action blockbuster.
First off, let me say that while I enjoyed the first film it did not leave the impression or feel of a cult film to me. Rather it was an above average action film with blends of dark comedy and an interesting twist on the superhero genre. Ironically, it was released right when the Marvel Cinematic Universe was truly beginning to take off (Iron Man 2 grossed $600 million at the box office that year) into the multi-billion dollar company that has now taken over the summer blockbuster. Quick aside: go see Ant-Man if you haven't already, it has a fantastic blend of humor and typical Marvel action that left me more satisfied than Age of Ultron (ugh). The first installment of the Kick-Ass series (I would pay full price to go see a Hit-Girl and Big Daddy prequel) was the exact opposite of a Marvel film. For me, it introduced the idea or at least brought it to light, that being a "superhero" in the real world is pretty fucking dangerous. Kick-Ass or Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Quicksilver in Age of Ultron) is constantly in harm's way, escapes certain death, and only wins in the end with injuries and a few casualties. Hit-Girl or Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz) is the only character in the film whose abilities you never doubt and she is the exact opposite of the typical mold of a superhero. Overall, Kick-Ass is a stray from the campy, upbeat tune of most superhero movies (Thank god for Christopher Nolan and Zack Snyder) and gives the viewer a dark look into real-life crime while still maintaining a slightly upbeat tone, mixed in with some very black comedy.
The setup for Kick-Ass 2 is fairly predictable, but entertaining nonetheless. Dave, having grown bored since giving up life as Kick-Ass goes to Hit-Girl to train to become a real hero. Meanwhile, Chris D'Amico (played by the always hilarious Christopher Mintz-Plasse) inherits his family's money after the death of his mother and drops the superhero name Red Mist to become the supervillain, The Motherfucker, swearing vengeance on Kick-Ass for his father's death. Kick-Ass' training with Hit-Girl is put to a halt when her guardian (Morris Chestnut in another typecast role) forbids her to fight crime for fear of her safety. Chestnut delivers very many cliche lines of a worried guardian taking care of a child whose parents have passed. "This is what your dad would have wanted," "the world is a scary place," and lines of the such. With her identity in question, Mindy attempts to fit in with the popular girl clique at school while Dave joins an alliance of superheros led by Jim Carrey and also featuring Scrubs' Donald Faison. The real conflict comes as The Motherfucker forms his own alliance of supervillians known as "Toxic Mega Cunts" (yeahhh).
The violence and gritty tone of this movie could turn off many viewers like the first one, but I found this one more graphic than the first. There is blood of nearly Tarantino-esque amounts (Tarantino himself cited this as one of his favorite films of 2013) and many characters die in brutal, unforgiving ways, even some of the good guys. At some points the graphic violence or dark subject matter seems forced or over-the-top, particularly a scene where The Motherfucker is attempting to rape a woman but can't maintain an erection, however it all fits into the narrative. Anyone who watches this film must know what they're into: a dark action film diving into what it means to be a hero in a broken society where evil seems to prevail. I found this installment in the series to fit more within the action genre than the comedy genre as the jokes weren't scarce, but certainly not prevalent.
Tone-wise the film struggles to find a clear tone as the comedy and violence mix in weirdly, but it never strays away too much from a typical narrative to lose the audience. The plot is pretty predictable, although there are enough twists for this to be considered a thriller for me, but it does a good enough job of delving into the main characters' lives and from the first 15 minutes on we understand the motives of each character. The action sequences are pretty great, arguably in my opinion better than the ones in the first film. Any Tarantino fan will appreciate the bloody, stylistic sword and gun fights throughout the film. The acting isn't anything Oscar-worthy but it is pretty damn good. Moretz plays a great badass, Taylor-Johnson is a good cowardly nerd, Mintz-Plasse is hilarious as a punk ass supervillain, and Clark Duke, Donald Faison, Jim Carrey, and Garrett M. Brown (Kick-Ass' dad) give very solid supporting roles. The theme of the film is simple enough for most moviegoers to comprehend as it tackles making the world a better place and living for your loved ones.
Kick-Ass 2 is not great, but it is a solid entertaining, violent, and occasionally funny ride that is a good viewing for any action movie fan and slightly improves upon the first film.