'Kick-Ass 2' review: Relentless flurry of violence, tired story, thin characters
While the original 'Kick-Ass' was a refreshing blend of joyful violence, its sequel is a muddled, uninspired/meandering exercise in failed shock value and poor story narrative.
In short: Bored with everyday life, Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) resumes his superhero career and joins a group of inspired new heroes led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Meanwhile, Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) is forced into retirement, where she struggles with life as a normal high school girl. And former hero Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) decides to become the world's first real super villain. (watch the trailer)
As evidenced by the lengthy 'in short' section above, 'Kick-Ass 2' suffers from an unfocused story that pulls in too many different directions at once.
This sequel's obvious theme is that of 'identity' - and 'Kick-Ass 2' never lets the audience forget that theme. An overgenerous peppering 'But that's not who you really are' lines of dialogue makes it quite clear the characters are often acting against their innate character. While this theme is admirable, constantly reminding the audience is mildly insulting and its execution is mishandled completely.
The first act is a long, winding and tiring slog of characters meeting each other ... and that's about it. They make few significant decisions - except that 'Kick-Ass wants to be a hero, Hit Girl tries hard to be a normal girl and former-Red Mist really wants to be bad.' The end result is Kick-Ass and former-Red Mist assemble a group of random heroes/villains with silly names. Meanwhile, Hit Girl seems as if she's in a whole other 'Mean Girls'-like movie altogether. Essentially everything that happens to Hit Girl for the first two acts bears little consequence on the broader narrative of growing good and evil.
By the time 'Kick-Ass 2' eventually starts to become interesting, the film is unfortunately populated by an army of underdeveloped characters, most of whom are little more than masked people with ridiculous names.
Anyone who has seen the original 'Kick Ass' knows main characters will be murdered - often by horrific and violent means. This sequel continues that MO, however, since too many characters have too little dimension to them, their inevitable/predictable deaths lack any meaningful emotional impact.
'Kick-Ass 2' is far more excessively violent and crass than the original. Characters are maimed, killed by lawn mowers and decapitated - which is par for the course for a 'Kick-Ass' movie. But the absurd shock value of violence, language and disgusting acts - which includes an attempted rape played for a laugh, a team of bad guys known as the 'Toxic Mega C**ts' and a character who simultaneously vomits and defecates - tires quickly and just becomes distracting.
Final verdict: 'Kick-Ass 2' fails to tap into the unique blend of intelligent, fun ultra-violence of the original, managing only a watered-down, 'meh' movie that fails to evolve the characters or franchise's tone.