FRESH POUR: Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Clint takes a look at two new releases that come out each week –just a short look at what’s being released in theaters, along with some drinking rules for your own perusal.

Kick-Ass 2 / dir. Jeff Wadlow / Universal Pictures

Kick Ass 22010’s Kick-Ass was a pleasant surprise in the superhero film genre; a decent deconstruction of the self-destructive mentality of superhero characters, it succeeds in having a great, wry sense of humor (despite somewhat betraying the film’s own message that being a superhero is a fool’s errand by the end). Kick-Ass 2 picks up right where the first left off, and it’s….more of the same, unfortunately. While the good parts of the first are still there, extending the crudeness and gratuitous violence into the second with the exact same tone makes the joke feel a bit more stale.

After the events of the first film, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz, stealing the show once again despite the character feeling more played out) makes a promise to stop being a superhero to her adoptive father Marcus (Morris Chestnut), while Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is just getting started building a group of superheroes to protect the city (led by Jim Carrey’s Colonel Stars and Stripes). Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) takes over his father’s operation, becomes The Motherfucker, and starts a quest for revenge against Kick-Ass. From here, it basically becomes a superhero version of a teen coming-of-age film – this time, Hit Girl is going through puberty and trying to fit in with the mean girls at school, while Kick-Ass continues to try to find himself separate from his dad.

Daddy issues abound in Kick-Ass 2, as all of the main characters are searching for their own identity separate from their fathers’ – Nicolas Cage and Mark Strong’s faces are shown in pictures and monitors over their children’s lairs, indicating that their influence looms large over them. Even Kick-Ass’s dad displays the kind of stern caring that he rebels against to find out who he is. Colonel Stars and Stripes acts as a bit of a father figure to Kick-Ass as well, though a much less complicated one (Jim Carrey is, admittedly, wasted here, as the Colonel has a very short stint in the film and is quickly forgotten about). The film itself is one huge ‘fuck you, dad’ struggle with the main characters, who always ends up actually honoring their fathers in some way.

Also present is the first film’s same muddled message, which this sequel had time to correct – unfortunately, it drops the ball severely. The film itself seems to recognize how redundant and unnecessary it is, as Dave’s endless narration waxes philosophical about life not needing sequels, but here we go again anyway. In a way, Dave seems to become a superhero again because welp, the cameras are rolling, so what else am I going to do with my life? The creation of a second film necessitates him getting back into the fold, which is a sort of interesting metatextual note to play. It also dulls the consequences of death, as The Motherfucker must be reminded by Kick-Ass in the film’s climax – “When you die, there’s nothing! There’s no sequel!” The film itself defies the laws of life itself; these characters effectively stopped existing when the credits rolled at the end of Kick-Ass, and now they’ve been resurrected. However, within the film’s own text, it can’t decide whether being a superhero is good or bad; the film eventually decides that the world just needs real heroes instead of superheroes, but Kick-Ass and Hit Girl are going to continue what they’re doing anyway. If the film was more married to its own message, one would think the characters themselves would follow their own philosophies.

The same over-the-top edgy action and profanity is back in Kick-Ass 2, but without Matthew Vaughn’s deft handling to make it work. Hit Girl’s potty mouth is commented upon, but the effect of her swearing becomes stale very quickly. The action itself is somewhat poorly handled; it’s perfunctory and chaotic, but without any real style or heft to it. Motherfucker henchwoman Mother Russia provides some of the best action flourishes, as she’s the real muscle behind the group; the group’s escape following a barely-funny rape attempt scene features the giantess wreaking having on nearly a dozen policeman with sociopathic aplomb. However, this is but a brief highlight, while the rest of the film seems a bit samey. The subplot involving Hit Girl trying to fit in with her new high school friends is intriguing at first, but falls into tone-deaf scatological humor straight out of a Scary Movie sequel for its resolution. In this way, this subplot seems representative of the film itself – completely willing to deal with the subtle effects of emotionally abused and scarred adolescents on their ability to interact with the rest of the world, but blowing up into cartoony antics that undercut the drama. It’s a half-decent watch, and it’s not openly bad, but it doesn’t improve on the first’s great potential.

Clint’s Verdict: Worth a Watch (I’m adding this ranking because ‘Liked It’ is a bit too broad at this point; I’ll still use Liked It to rank films I really enjoyed, but can’t say are good enough to love.)

Drinking Rules for Kick-Ass 2:
1) Drink every time Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) swears
2) Drink for each lingering shot of Big Daddy’s costume in a glass case
3) Drink whenever a character is stabbed or slashed
Finish Your Drink When:
Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) says, “When you die, there’s nothing. There’s no sequel!”

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About Clint Worthington

Clint Worthington is a Chicago-based film/TV critic and podcaster. A member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, you can find his other film work at Consequence of Sound (where he is a Senior Staff Writer), Crooked Marquee, IndieWire and UPROXX. He is also the co-host of Nathan Rabin's Happy Cast.

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