If I were 14 years old, there’s a chance that Kick-Ass 2, with its rampant misogyny, never-ending barrage of gay panic jokes and gleeful use of violence and obscenity, would’ve been precisely the kind of provocation that spoke to my hormone-addled, Mountain Dew-soaked mind. Fortunately, I’m not and it doesn’t. Kick-Ass 2 is a mostly unpleasant film with brief moments of wit and inspiration that are immediately drowned out in the din of faux-edginess that permeate the picture. Picking up where the previous film left off, we see Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) attempting to make a go of living life as a teenager while Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnston) decides to dedicate his life to fighting crime as Kick-Ass again, this time teaming up with a low-rent super-team of vigilantes called “Justice Forever” led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico aka The Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) plots his revenge on Kick-Ass for having blown up his father at the end of the previous film, assembling an army of hooligans with the goal of killing anyone and anything that Kick-Ass holds dear, all leading to a major smack down between amateur villains and vigilantes in a secret hideout at film’s end.
The first Kick-Ass served as a pleasant surprise, colorfully directed with verve and panache by the severely underappreciated Matthew Vaughn (look at his filmography, not a clunker to be seen), managing to sand down the hateful edges from Mark Millar’s initial comic book series while telling a decent story that slowly raised the stakes until its absurdly violent finale (featuring an 11-year-old massacring a room of gangsters set to Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation”). It also didn’t hurt that Nicholas Cage turned in a surprising performance as the paternal superhero Big Daddy, somehow managing to craft a sympathetic character while sporting a ridiculous moustache and Adam West impersonation. Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t have Cage to learn on this time (although his prominently displayed glamour shot hanging on Hit Girl’s wall turns in one of the best performances in the movie), instead relying on the returning members of its original cast to continue to develop as characters.
They don’t. Aaron Taylor-Johnston is still charismatic and watchable as Kick-Ass here, but for lack of anything better to do with him they ignore anything resembling character growth from the first film and essentially repeat his character arc beat for beat. Chloe Grace Moretz is given something new to do in this film, but suffers just as badly. The subversive thrill of seeing her spouting string of profanities and mow down baddies as a pre-teen is lost, and while a small sliver of hope is given during a smart sequence where Hit Girl’s hormones kick in for the first time while watching a banal music video for a generic boy band during a sleepover, it’s quickly abandoned so we can see its Mean Girls subplot end with a sequence of simultaneous projectile vomit and defecation (you might be beginning to see the level this film is operating on). Christopher Mintz-Plasse just doesn’t work as “The Mother (fill in the blank)er”, neither selling the menace of a character slowly losing his grip on reality or the comedy of a villain who doesn’t have the guts to perform any villainy with his own two hands. A few cast members do distinguish themselves, however, with Jim Carrey’s brief appearance as the mobster-turned-born-again-vigilante Colonel Stars and Stripes being the highlight, a performance set at a tenor the rest of the film struggles to match (Donald Faison and John Leguizamo also charm in their brief roles).
I don’t think the film is nearly as transgressive or offensive as it thinks it is, although I must note that the constant barrage of gay jokes spread out through the movie created an environment at my screening where a genuine moment wherein a gay character explains he doesn’t wear a mask because it would feel too much like being back in the closet earned guffaws from our MENSA-level audience. It’s more obnoxious than anything, a film that believes it’s operating on the level of satire while actually just indulging in hateful stereotyping and reductive gender norms. Moments to savor come far too infrequently, the comedy is labored and the action is perfunctory - not to mention, not particularly gruesome, rendering Jim Carrey’s moral stance against promoting this film something of a waste, much like the majority of Kick-Ass 2’s running time.