Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Case for More Whupping

It’s really a bit of a misnomer to call the film Kick-Ass 2, really the film should be called The Adventures of Hit Girl.

Warning: the review will have a LOT of spoilers, so beware! 

The first Kick-Ass introduced the world to wannabe superhero, Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and the colourful characters who shared his passion for costume, including Mindy aka Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), the primary school hand-to-hand combat expert with one of the foulest mouths on the planet.  

The second film picks up where the first left off.  Dave wants to get back into the superhero biz and joins a group of (mostly) harmless masked vigilantes who are making the streets safer.  Mindy has been left in the hands of her strict guardian, who curbs her Hit Girl activities and encourages her to focus on that other jungle, high shool.  Meanwhile, Dave’s one-time partner, Chris D'Amico, The Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has turned to the dark side, adopting a new identity (the Mother F**ker) and gathers a force of his own to take Kick-Ass down. 

And the film pretty much operates as three, very distinct, very separate stories, and the one the writer and director seem most interested in is that of Mindy.  To be honest, she is the most interesting character: Dave has almost no motivation in this movie (except to work out; he is in great shape for the “ogling the superhero’s physique” scene that is more or less mandatory in these kinds of films these days), and Chris exists to be an incompetent idiot, though he does put together a supervillian team that includes Mother Russia, a one woman mean machine, who gets to have all the physical fun in the film.

However, even if it is the heart of the film, Mindy’s story is not terribly convincing.  It aims for a Mean Girls vibe at one point (joining a popular clique but proving too good for the lead plastic to bear), and showing that Mindy does have a gooey teenage heart (the scene where she encounters the film’s One Direction spin off is amusing), but this all seems pointless in the context of the movie, which is (I presume) Kick-Ass’s battle with Mother F**ker, which she eventually (but inevitably) joins as her first, best destiny. 

Dave’s story is even thinner: his girlfriend dumps him within five minutes of the film and he basically checks out of school from there.  While I liked that Kick-Ass was not central to the Justice Forever team, the whole endeavour seems like an attempt at jokes that just aren’t funny (we are meant to laugh at the “heroes” rather than root for them), and Dave’s relationship with his Dad is so cliché that the writers seem to expect us to know Spiderman’s story for us to understand it.  

Then the bad guys come in and the heroes’ naivete shows through.  Unfortunately, the violence is sometimes comic in its execution, undercutting the “moral” that I presume the story is trying to tell.  While this can be (and is) quite funny, the balance between “heroes in the real world” and “superhero logic” is never really respected. 

So, to stop rehashing the plot, let me summarise: the overwhelming impression of Kick-Ass 2 is that it is long.  There is a lot going on, and none of it very quickly, and very little of it meshes together particularly well.  This is not helped by the cinematography that seems fascinated with Moretz’s lips and lighting that I think is trying to remove shadows from her face to make her look younger but really just makes her look strange.  

Meanwhile, Dave is the side kick in his own movie, paying third fiddle really to the other members of the film triad.  I felt a little bad for him in the end, being relegated to such a thankless role, though it did give him the chance to work on his abs I suppose.  

And then Jim Carrey comes out and pans the film for its excessive language and violence.  Well, he should really have watched the first one and then he would have known what Kick-Ass is all about.

Verdict: Kick-Ass 2 seems like a lazy sequel to the original, picking up the first’s most interesting character and throwing as many elements as the writers could think of into a storyline that kind of incorporates them all.  It is unconvincing, mean-spirited, and a bit rubbish, but the crowd I was with seemed to love it (and loved spotting actors from Game of Thrones, judging by the murmuring that went on) as it is still packed full of insane violence and foul language.  It is definitely not Tarantino though, more’s the pity.  6 whuppings out of 10.

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