Kick-Ass 2: The Breakfast Club with a Body Count
The wildly original action comedy Kick-Ass has returned with what could have been an enjoyable sequel had the tone not been so uneven. It benefits from Chloë Grace Moretz’s layered performance as a superhero trying to survive adolescence. It’s just a shame that the witty take on school is so ultra-gory, filled with so much unnecessary roughness that it may be disturbing to teens.
Mindy (Moretz) and Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) continue their secret lives as Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass, battling crime on the streets of New York, but a promise to her late father (Nic Cage, not in this film) forces Mindy to take high school seriously and give up her life of crime fighting. Alone, Dave joins a rag-tag team of wannabe heroes including an ex-mafia enforcer (Jim Carrey) and Dave’s best friend, Marty (Clark Duke). Meanwhile, Mindy becomes the victim of a snotty clique and unlike in the real world, she’s defenseless from snickers, put-downs and other nasty pranks. A contract killer with a knife can be beaten down; a Mean Girl with an entourage can destroy you with just a comment. Meanwhile, the first film villain’s son (Chris Mintz-Plasse) has returned with a vendetta and a crew of his own.
Moretz brings such believable agony to life in the prison that is high school that it’s impossible to not empathize with her dangerous need to escape and fight crime in the real world. She’s a gem of an actress, always forcing other actors to up their game in her presence. Taylor-Johnson does a clever riff on the Peter Parker/Spiderman persona, someone who uses his heroics to lift his lonely life, but without the benefit of superpowers. Mintz-Plasse, though, who was fun as the numbskull son of a Mafioso in the first film, is so over-the-top vicious that he loses both empathy and humor. He’s too weak to be feared and too vile at which to poke fun.
Writer/Director Jeff Wadlow avoids merely copying the first film and actually has something interesting to say about teenagers. It’s a superhero version of an ‘80s John Hughes movie where, despite blood and special effects, audiences can identify with the universality of the protagonists’ problems. Wadlow’s dialogue can be trite at times, though, and if he gave out a penny to every other audience member every time he had a character say “the real world,” the budget would have quadrupled.
It’s a wonder if the violence in this film would have been so obvious had Jim Carrey not brought it to the forefront with his media attention. Regardless, the film could have stood strong on its own and the violence does seem ugly and counter-productive. While the camera spares the audience main characters’ violent deaths on the screen, extras are fair game. In one scene, a villain places a running lawnmower on the trunk of a car then backs it into a police car. The lawnmower crashes through the windshield. Everything else could have been left to the imagination and it would have been effective enough. Did we really need see that mower blade slice through the cop’s shoulder? We are not even talking about the death of a heinous murderer — this is an innocent police officer protecting the community. And he was only one in a number of officers who suffered gory deaths like having their heads caved in by flying car doors. Then there’s the attempted rape of a minor character, played for laughs, which makes it more nauseating.
Quentin Tarantino and Edgar Wright utilize gruesome acts to much better effect in their films and it seems to be a commentary on the genre each is mocking. The violence here seems out of place and sadistic, sullying a sharp comedy about heroes trapped by regular life. Grade: B-