Mania Review: Kick-Ass 2 -

Mania Review

Mania Grade: B+

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  • Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison and Jimn Carrey
  • Written by: Jeff Wadlow
  • Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
  • Studio: Universal Pictures
  • Rating: R
  • Run Time: 103 minutes
  • Series:

Mania Review: Kick-Ass 2

Sack up and punch out.

By Rob Vaux     August 16, 2013

 A curtain call can never surpass the performance that came before it, but that doesn’t mean it’s a wasted effort. Critics have come down on Kick-Ass 2 for not being as innovative and eye-catching as its predecessor. That misses the point a little bit .It doesn’t want to surpass the first Kick-Ass. It just wants to take the scenario to an interesting place. And it definitely finds a few interesting places to go.

The title character actually doesn’t benefit from that as much as he should. It’s not that Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s titular teenage vigilante isn’t fun to watch – this time benefiting from a lot of training that still doesn’t stop him from getting very badly hurt – it’s just that his arc is just about completed. They give him a little more angst to handle here, some trite lessons to learn, and a revisit from his old nemesis Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to keep the plot moving. But basically we’ve learned everything there is to know about this guy, and the conclusion here feels like it just about taps the well dry.

The best elements involve him grappling with the phenomenon he started, as new vigilantes take to the streets and the whole costumed crime-fighting thing becomes a bit of a fad. He soon joins a burgeoning team led by the righteous-but-scary Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), while starting a torrid romance with the possibly deranged Night Bitch (Lindy Booth). The idea makes for a mildly diverting variation of his original mission as the various vigilantes have to balance their endeavors with something resembling a life (one pair calls an evening patrol off because they scored tickets to The Book of Mormon). It plays nicely with the franchise’s whole heroes-in-the-real-world thing (including some rather brutal repercussions), but it doesn’t expand much beyond what we’ve seen so far.

What makes Kick-Ass 2 worthwhile is that other character on all those posters.

The moment she kicked down that drug dealer's door in the first film, we knew that Chloe Grace Moretz was something special. She's proven that in subsequent films (and the Carrie remake got a lot less worrisome with her in the lead), and this one could have been fine just letting her do her thing. But as Hit Girl, the possibly psychotic engine of her late father's vengeance, she finds some amazing places to go here. The best conceit involves her trying to navigate the social waters of high school: a world that is at once infinitely more perilous and utterly unprepared for her. Kick-Ass 2 slyly infers that the evils in the locker room are no less awful than those on the street; the bad guys just use different weapons and strike at different vulnerabilities. The heroine is at first completely upended by the dynamic, but she soon adjusts once she realizes how to apply her unique skills to the new rules. It's a stone groove to watch, and very much in keeping with the series' ethos.

More to the point, Kick-Ass 2 insists on treating her as a fleshed-out character instead of the extension of a male. She has wounds, she broods, and she occasionally lashes out, but it's not displayed as the foolish hysterics of a woman. She doesn't need to flash any skin to demonstrate her power, and yet she's still a girl instead of a boy in drag. In perhaps the boldest move of the entire franchise, Kick-Ass 2 actually shows us her blossoming adolescence… defined on her terms and with none of the misogynistic judgment with which most movies handle women's desires. It's a little transgressive, but it makes the character one of the most fascinating yet put forth in a comic book film. I find it impossible to believe that Hollywood can't do something similar with better known superheroines and finally start evening the genre’s badly unbalanced gender scales.

The rest of Kick-Ass 2 is pretty much what you’d expect: appalling violence, satirical jibes and a strangely fitting approach to four-color fantasies in the real world. Director Jeff Wadlow lacks the insight that Mathew Vaughn brought to the first film, but he captures the same spirit and makes progress with it instead of just marking time. You can’t ask for much more from a sequel, especially at the tail end of a summer like this. A Part 3 would definitely be pushing it, but we ain’t there yet. As it stands, Kick-Ass 2 more than earns its spurs.  


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blankczech 8/16/2013 5:50:24 AM

 Look forward to seeing this even if it's six months from now on television.  Impressed that the director refused to make cuts necessary to get a PG rating, a move that will cost this movie dearly at the box office (nowadays everyone does that, artistic integrity be damned, they even deleted Bruce Willis's signature line from the last couple of Die Hard Movies).  It will be refreshing to see a movie that's not for people under the age 17...There's plenty of other stuff out there that has been de-clawed, sanitized and dumbed down for the kiddies.  

Thought Moretz was going to be special when I saw her in Let Me of my favorite, recently made, horror flicks.

DarthBob 8/16/2013 6:07:26 AM

Looks like crap; will skip for sure.

JTime 8/16/2013 6:16:12 AM

blankczech, I have to take issue with the implication that when a director chooses to make the cuts that this one would not, that he's not courageous, is making a movie for the kiddies or is lacking in artistic integrity. Some adults don't want to see excessive levels of violence, crude language or other elements that might garner an R rating either. And many movies that don't contain those things are far more entertaining, intelligent, artistic and mature than this one, which some might argue actually panders to more adolecent sensibilities by including such content.

If that's your taste, you're entitled. Just be mindful that there's two sides to a coin.

CyanideRush 8/16/2013 7:06:15 AM

 JTime, I think that Blankczech is casting aspersions upon directors who sacrifice the intergrity of their artistic vision solely to garner a more fiscally enticing rating, rather than those whose plans always intended a lower rating. There is something to be said for a person who takes a pay day over their vision, and it's a prejoritive in most cases. 

JTime 8/16/2013 7:56:45 AM

CyanideRush , you’re right. I get that blankczech was targeting those who would make such cuts for the money as opposed to the ones who planned to. I just don’t believe that it’s true in every case that it necessarily results in a worse film, even if it compromises the original vision. If the story depends on those elements (ultra-violence, explicit language, etc.) in order to work, then was it really solid storytelling to begin with? Many movies dealing with similar subjects result in an engaging, thought-provoking and entertaining experience with the implication of such things. If the movie is propped up by graphic content, in that it would collapse without it, what does that say about the foundation to begin with? Not arguing their right to their vision, just the interpretation of the outcome, if that makes sense. Not intending to bash blankczech either.

CyanideRush 8/16/2013 8:02:11 AM

 Jtime, I can understand what you're saying, but I feel as though your position may be holding to the tennant that an excessive violence at all carries no merrit, could provide no value in any instance, or provoke no deeper thought. I can't say that I agree with that. I understand you may not enjoy or favor films which contain "ultra violence" (however we feel like loosely defining it) or loads of gore, but I would argue that films with a message can leverage that as another tool in their story telling toolbox.

Put another way: I disagree that the inclusion of extreme violence, explicit language (the elements that would bump a rating from PG-13 to R) immediately indicates that a film lacks something else which those elements serve to prop up. Can that be the case? Absolutely. But it's not an automatic "if-than" statement. (If I misinterpreted what you meant, please let me know).

CyanideRush 8/16/2013 8:06:52 AM

 Oh, Nevermind JTime, I don't think we expressly disagree. I caught your emphasis on "depends" upon rereading what your wrote. My mistake. 

JTime 8/16/2013 8:48:25 AM

No problem, CyanideRush. Thanks for keeping it cordial.

blankczech 8/16/2013 10:22:09 AM

 What did I start? bring this up in several threads but it's a bone of contention with me. 

Friends tell me they don't go to the movies anymore because Hollywood isn't making movies for adults and I say that Hollywood isn't making movies for adults because they don't go to the movies (sounds the same but it's different).

Personally I don't care if  movies like Raging Bull, Schindler's List, The Shawshank Redemption and others of that ilk are extinct and Hollywood is now going to give us a steady diet of Super Heroes, gross out comedy, sci/fi (space operas), fantasy, horror, action, and animated kiddie flicks. I can live with that and I understand how we got here.   I enjoy escaping reality for 2 or 3 hours, and I like seeing movies with my grandsons.  

What I'm afraid of is that the mega success of movies like the Avengers or Despicable Me 2 (both fine films) will prompt others to attempt to mimic their formula.  I'm not promoting bad language, gratuitous violence or sex.  I just don't want someone to say take out the scene where the Joker implies that his father sliced up his face, or leave out the bedroom scene, or replace that four letter word, or that scene is too tense, or too bloody,  when those scenes are crucial to the story just to appease the sensitivities and sensibilities of children or their moms or their grandparents.  I'd rather the movie be made as it was written and those people didn't go, and I certainly don't want tie ins with toy sales effecting what gets put on the screen.



CyanideRush 8/16/2013 10:43:04 AM

 Well Blankczech, I'd better not bring up what filmmakers are now willing to compromise in order to have their film shown in China/Hong Kong...uh oh *kaboom*  :)

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