Sunday, 18 August 2013

Kick Ass 2 - Review

Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Morris Chestnut, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clark Duke, Augustus Prew, Jim Carrey
Written by: Jeff Wadlow (screenplay), Mark Millar & John Romita Jr (Comic book)

Rating: 7/10

While not exactly as hard hitting as Kick-Ass, the sequel serves up a good dose of reflection. Many were originally enamoured with the original for what was a witty take on the ‘comic book hero’ origin story. It’s a story that decides to look at clichés from an overcooked genre right from the very beginning – which is why this sequel may leave a few with a bad taste in their mouth. This sequel may make use of more than one overarching story tropes – but it doesn’t detract from the film for this reviewer. It’s definitely more of a ‘conventional’ film – playing it slightly safer with audiences than it’s predecessor. But the film is still fun to watch – and enjoyable to a fault.

There’s less of the realist shock in this outing. I can distinctly remember the audiences wincing and gasping in shock, if not outright horror, at the disruptive realism of the first film. Kick-Ass’ main strength is that he became a hero not through some convoluted origin story that would later be retconned to death, but in that he was as much an ordinary guy as anyone else. Not to mention completely unprepared and brutally beaten, repeatedly, before he started learning how to defend himself. It’s your archetypal underdog story – and despite all the critical accusations levelled at the film, it does it well.

Kick-Ass 2 furthers the story of Dave/Kick-Ass as he works out, and works on, his superhero identity. The film focuses on his personal struggles as he deals with the expansion the vigilante/superhero movement, the high school drama that Mindy undergoes in her ‘normal’ life and the revenge that The Motherfucker is seeking in desperation. As Mindy follows that normal life, Dave is left with joining a gang of vigilantes led by the effervescent Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes. Despite his refusal to promote the film, he brings a lovable rogue performance to the table as a hero with a troubled past.

It doesn’t break new ground – you could probably get the same message, if in a much less threatening and violent way, from Flashdance, Footloose…

In a run of the mill story about believing in yourself, understanding limits and consequences and overcoming adverse powers, where does the enjoyment come from?

The talented and committed cast. While some of the character names are more dubious (Night Bitch/Mother Russia/Genghis Carnage), the main leads show a level of maturation. This is partly from Jeff Wadlow’s direction (Never Back Down), partly the second act of the heroes arc rolling in, and we assume, partly from their maturation. Gone is the naïve Dave (Johnson) from the first comic/story – gone is the unprepared and shocked teenager who foolishly rushed headfirst into his new ‘profession’ – he’s replaced by a much more controlled and forward thinking persona. It was, at times, hard watching a character that was so optimistic and wanted to do good, engage in such a violent storyline. It was like sticking the quiet kid from the back of the classroom in the middle of a war zone – but this kid has now grown up.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse is believable in his comedic turn as the film’s antagonist, the former hero known as Red Mist – he’s rebranded himself as The Motherfucker. A name which causes no end of amusement, from what we could hear in the theatre.
Unsurprisingly the star of the film, once again for this series, proves to be Chloë Moretz. Taking a turn at exploring the more ‘mundane’ side of Hit-Girl, or ‘Mindy’, she manages to show a vulnerability and tenacity that would fit any high school movie trope. However, she does deliver some of the more poignant moments of the trip – and she does them with poise. Clearly, not much can disturb this young actress who takes us into the world of a very brash teenage girl who hides her true feelings by going out all guns blazing.
Most of the supporting cast are veterans or regular players in the comedy genre, so they fall into place with great ease. Donald Faison still has streaks of his character’s vocal patterns from Scrubs present in his current incarnation of ‘Dr. Gravity’ but that just makes better. Similarly, Carrey brings a sense of familiarity to the screen
Kick-Ass, while not a perfect film, gave us a slight feeling of realism. Despite the audience never having taken part in a neighbourhood watch where they dressed up as superheroes to protect their towns – they understood and felt the essence of the experience. It is something that even, perhaps, Bazin would have admired. (Bazin was associated with a ‘realist’ school of thought regarding film theory, and I am paraphrasing here, suggested that one of the most important qualities of a film was that it helped to provide the essence of an event which we may have no personal knowledge of).

The cinematography is par for the course, as is the soundtrack. Props (pun fully intended) go to the costume department and the production department – they have a brilliant eye for keeping the series rolling and rooted in it’s own world.
People are clamouring that while the first story was a run at the comic-book genre – the second appears to be the target. But what they forget is that not only is the story derived from source material not created by either director – it is also a story about that awkward, adolescent stage in life. Which is exactly what the atmosphere of the film perpetuates throughout – it is a bildungsroman (a coming-of-age) tale, done well. It’s just a shame that it’s less focused on the titular character.
Too much of the Hit Girl material is retained and the focus of the film shifts, at times, from the central story arc to the subplots involving Mindy – while not necessarily a detriment in anyway, it does slightly remind us of the Minions upstaging Carrell in the great family flick series of Despicable Me. This one is more subtle, but Moretz definitely steals the show, despite Johnson’s strong performance.

It’s difficult to satirise something in the form of the object – which is why this outing feels as a slight disappointment to those that have read the comics and were expecting a strong send-up of the superhero film genre. On the first film, it was easy to buy into the hype and love the film had for itself, for it’s edginess and it’s push. In this one, you are merely along for the ride during noticeable chunks of the film – for fare that you’ve probably seen before.
While Wadlow’s turn may not be as memorable as Vaughn’s (director of the original), it is certainly a film that will entertain.

Oh, and there’s a dog on your balls….

What the Mr. Thought:
I enjoyed it and would recommend it - assuming you've seen the original and liked it. It will appeal to fans of the comic and the first film - but it will have a lot of spoilers if you aren't aware of either. I'll remember it fondly - it's a decent summer film that's enjoyable. Not as bloody or self-aware as the first one - but still fun. 

What the Misses Thought:
I loved the first film, a lot. Kick Ass 2, mostly, did not disappoint. The action, the pace and the ass kicking was just right. I love the cinematography, and I am a sucker for a fight slowed down so I can see every movement and the pain being inflicted! (Sorry if that sounds strange, but it's just so cool!) And if you see the film, you'll understand when you see Hit Girl towards the end of the film.
However I wish parts weren't glazed over as much as they were, and this is the only let down for me.
I thoroughly enjoyed the film, so if you get a chance go and watch it!

But remember, you didn't hear that from us!
The Mr. and the Misses

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