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Film review: KICK-ASS 2, from Built For Speed

In a world full of noble, philosophical super-hero movies, 2010’s obscene, ultra-violent super-hero parody Kick Ass was a welcome shock to the system. Featuring Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the superbly nerdy Dave Lizewski aka clutzy crime fighting fan-boy Kick Ass and his idols, foul mouthed pre-teen super-heroine Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and her killing-machine father Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), Kick Ass deftly balanced blood-soaked violence with whip-smart humour.

It was always going to be a tough ask for a Kick Ass sequel to maintain the thrill of the first film and while number two contains as much limb-snapping violence and pop-cultural satire as Kick Ass, it suffers from a lack of originality.

Following her Dad’s brutal death in the first Kick Ass film, Mindy Macready aka Hit Girl is now in the care of Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut). In accordance with Big Daddy’s wishes, Williams insists that Mindy give up crime fighting and behave like a normal teenager. Meanwhile Dave Lizewski has taken up the vigilante cause and has once again donned the Kick Ass costume which looks like a rejected Australian one day cricket uniform.  He joins a motley crime fighting team led by military hard-ass and born again Christian Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carey).  Dave’s fellow crime fighters are the least impressive looking heroes in history with some of them using tracksuits as their superhero costumes.   Kick Ass’s nemesis this time is, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) the son of the crime boss Kick Ass killed with a bazooka in the first film.  D’Amico, who has given himself a super villain name we can’t print, has assembled a crew of costumed killers – including a Rocky 4-style giant, indestructible Russian – to destroy Kick Ass.

With so many plot threads thrown together, Kick Ass 2 is a bit of jumble and as a result it lacks some of the original’s propulsive energy.  Director and co-writer Jeff Wadlow hits us with plenty of extreme violence and off-beat humour but this film is not the lean beast the first film was.  The violence here is often a little too extreme and lacks some of the cartoon fun of the first film.  Also, a couple of the action scenes look a little shoddy such as a sequence, in which hit girl attacks a moving car and the green screen work looks like it could have come from the 1950’s.

Kick Ass 2 has some thoughtful moments as it tries to say something about the place of superheroes in popular culture and the place of heroes in society. The film also examines the awkwardness of being a teen as Hit Girl enters high school and has to deal with mean girl cliques and dating which seem even more treacherous than the crime fighting world.   While this aspect of the film is sometimes poignant, the budding romances and sentimental scenes occasionally grate with the film’s hip, cynical vibe.  Also, as Hit Girl tries to fit into teen social world she goes missing from many of the action scenes.

When she’s back in Hit Girl mode, Chloe Moretz is again terrific as an obscenity-spitting mix of psychotic killer and innocent child.  During the straight dramatic scenes, though, she’s far less convincing.   Like Toby Maguire, Aaron Taylor-Johnson has that immensely likeable mix of nerdiness, chivalry and reluctant heroism that perfectly suits the role of the crime fighting dork.  Although his fighting skills improve he’s still hilariously clumsy and the victim of savage beatings.   The only problem is that Taylor-Johnson is 23 and looks too old to be playing a high school kid.

As Chris D’Amico or his gimp-suited alter ego the (unprintable), Christopher Mintz-Plasse is amusingly crazed but occasionally so manic he’s incoherent.  Jim Carrey is oddly subdued as Colonel Stars and Stripes with none of his trademark facial girning or maniacal meltdowns.

It’s often fun but Kick Ass 2 is really just an inferior version of the first film and won’t inspire as many girls to don purple wigs and plastic swords for ComicCon as the first film did.

Nick’s rating: Three stars.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): Jeff Wadlow

Release date: 22nd Aug 2013

Running time: 103 mins.

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