Given that star Jim Carrey withdrew his support for Kick-Ass 2 in June, saying it trivialized violence, it's no wonder the movie screened after press deadlines. Critic Curtis Woloschuk also finds little to defend.
Critic's Grade: C-
If this second Kick-Ass
installment manages to distinguish itself at all, it's by establishing a new standard for the level of disinterest a film can show in its title character.
As Kick-Ass, the superpower-free vigilante—aside from some nerve damage that's conveniently left him impervious to pain—Aaron Taylor-Johnson is largely left to play a union suit-clad Garrison Keillor. He supplies narration, serves as a built-in Wikipedia page for dispensing backstory, and constantly asserts that “this isn't like in the comic books,” despite the remarkable similarities.
While Kick-Ass busies himself teaming up with Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey, in an extended cameo) and other costumed eccentrics apparently cut from Mystery Men's audition montage, the film bearing his name focuses its attention on Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). Last seen going through a pack of henchmen like a katana sword through flesh, the foul-mouthed, 15-year-old killing machine is now trying to survive high school.
It's little wonder that writer-director Jeff Wadlow (taking the reins from Matthew Vaughn) has hitched his film to the dynamic Moretz. A remarkably assured, intelligent and expressive young actress, she threw herself into the breakout role in 2010's Kick-Ass, relishing the two-fisted action and four-letter profanity. Here, she seems slightly aggrieved to be repeating herself rather than tackling new challenges. The wanton mischief she once brought to Hit-Girl has been replaced by a sense of professionalism.
Perhaps some of her reluctance can be attributed a script rife with misogyny. While Hit-Girl contends with sadistic, bumping-and-grinding harpies at school, Kick-Ass rebounds from his girlfriend's infidelities by banging the costumed Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) in public bathrooms. Meanwhile, the “evil Bruce Wayne” (Christopher Mintz-Plasse)—whose mobster dad perished at Kick-Ass' gloved hands—dons his mom's bondage gear, dubs himself “The Motherfucker” and, intent on exacting revenge, forms a gang called the Toxic Mega Cunts.
Only exasperating the film's distasteful content is its irritating smugness. Quite pleased with itself for pushing buttons, it's prepared to scoff at any naysayers, accusing them of not getting the joke or being incapable of parsing its supposedly transgressive commentary. (The homophobia is satirizing homophobia. Get it?) And, in fairness, it'll likely take at least a second viewing to recognize the subtleties of a scene in which a dog tears off a guy's dick.
Declining to either legitimately explore the growing subculture of real-life superheroes or offer a Fight Club-like appraisal of individuals who derive purpose and empowerment from violence, Kick-Ass 2 contents itself with snickering at its own dim-witted attempts at cleverness and amassing considerable evidence that Wadlow would benefit from a remedial course in storytelling.
Not only does Wadlow leave Kick-Ass on the sidelines for long stretches, he also routinely fails to deliver any of the consequences promised and takes the better part of his film's running time to put the Motherfucker's scheme into motion. His ham-handedness also carries over to the fisticuffs, ensuring that even the all-out rumble—intended to serve as the film's idiotic raison d'être—proves punchless. Despite all the limbs snapped in Kick-Ass 2, it's ultimately the shoddy filmmaking that leaves you wincing.