Kick-Ass 2 (2013) – Review

The first Kick-Ass, directed by Layer Cake auteur Matthew Vaughn, was a huge success both commercially and critically.  I think much of the power came from a lack of awareness of the source material (I hadn’t known of the comics beforehand) and therefore a lack expectation behind it, which gave it the chance to completely take audiences by surprise with its super-fun, ultra-violent, supremely entertaining wackiness.  The change of director for the sequel, Never Back Down’s Jeff Wadlow, wasn’t exactly optimism-inducing news for fear that it would lose Vaughn’s thrill-paced touch, but here’s a case for always keeping one’s mind open.  All I really wanted from this film was the same level of pure entertainment that the first one brought, and by golly I got it.

Just a whiff of controversy has surrounded the lead-up to the release of Kick-Ass 2, in Jim Carrey’s refusal to promote the film after the awful Sandy Hook massacre at the end of last year.  He said he wasn’t ashamed of doing the film, but he couldn’t condone the violence in it after something like that, and has thus refused to do any press tours, interviews, or even tweet about it.  I completely respect his decision, as we all should, but it’s also a bit of a shame because the film really is great.  Of course it is very violent, just like the first one, but it’s always done in a quite comical tone.  Perhaps that doesn’t exactly make it less effective or impacting, but it certainly makes it less hateful, which I think is important in a film like this.  Anyway, that’s not even to mention how toned down it is compared to the blood-drenched comics – not that I’ve read any of them, but I’ve heard a thing or two – and whether violent or not, the action is always another level of fun.  Getting to see Turk from Scrubs run around in a superhero costume with a spiked baseball bat is worth the admission price alone.

Carrey is a most welcome addition to the cast this time around, despite his post-wrap strike.  He’s one of those few actors who can just make a film for me – at least when he’s doing comedy – whether it’s good or bad.  From The Cable Guy to Liar, Liar to Ace Venture to Bruce Almighty, his facial expressions, tirelessness and unrelenting wackiness just gets me every time, and while he’s not in that mode in Kick-Ass 2, he still brings an extra level of humour and charm to the mix that only accentuates the fun.  As before, he said he isn’t ashamed of the role, which I do hope is true because it’s a great and incredibly enjoyable performance.  Donald Faison, too, while not given all that much to do, is fun to have around (too much to hope for a Zach Braff appearance in Kick-Ass 3?), yet once again it’s Moretz who steals the show.  She won us all over as Hit Girl at a mere 11 years old, not least because of the effortlessness with which she delivered her sweary lines.  While her cursing isn’t as shockingly funny this time around, what with being a few years older, her wit, charm, ass-kicking, and now, beauty, make for an irresistible concoction.  She’s made Hit Girl a superstar; or perhaps, Hit Girl has made her one.

The film does miss Nicolas Cage, there’s no getting away from that.  Love him or hate him, he’s always an entertainer, but there are those rare roles of his that just exuberate – à la Big Daddy.  The crazy, smiling picture on Hit Girl’s wall helps a little as a reminder, and Carrey fills the void to an extent, but there remains a vacant hole throughout screaming for the same chemistry that Hit Girl and Big Daddy shared.  The core relationship is thus shifted to Hit Girl and Kick-Ass, or more accurately, Dave and Mindy.  As Hit Girl becomes her own empowered young woman whom Big Daddy would have been proud of, she remains at odds with her adolescence outside of the mask.  Dave essentially becomes the Big Daddy to Hit Girl’s Mindy, as he reassures her during the arduous journey of fitting in in high school and teaches her to be her own person, in the same way that Big Daddy would have.  It’s a warmly written relationship, and a sweet touch to the narrative.

The score by Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson is much the same as before, and as fantastic as ever.  The main theme has an overwhelming, almost transcendent, power to lift us up and make us grin, and while objectively it’s perhaps a little overused, I found it hard to see that as a problem because it’s such a joy to listen to.  It’s an amalgamation of sorts, between original work and some of John Murphy’s wondrous chords on Danny Boyle’s Sunshine – which is not a bad OST to be using.  The track that played during Big Daddy’s death in the first movie – which sadly doesn’t show up here – is a brilliant remix of ‘Surface Of The Sun’, one of my favourite tracks of any soundtrack ever.

Kick-Ass 2 ups the ante; where the first film saw Kick-Ass, Hit Girl and Big Daddy virtually going it alone against a mob boss, the sequel creates all out warfare between two armies, and the sheer ludicrousness of the previous finale’s jet pack and bazooka is swapped for the perhaps less hilarious and outrageous but far larger scale mayhem of a shark tank and warehouse brawl.  It’s a ballsy, rip-roaring and immensely fun ascent into uncompromisingly entertaining, erratically-controlled mayhem.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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