Mild mannered Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is now a senior in high school. As the spandex and boot wearing vigilante Kick-Ass, he managed to inspire a bunch of average citizens to become their own brand of justice, but he himself has fallen out of practice for a bit. Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) also hits an educational milestone as she enters her freshman year, but, unlike Dave’s Kick-Ass, her alter ego of Hit Girl has far more pressing things to deal with other than high school curriculums and boys. Hit Girl is hard at work, cutting school to hone her skills as a street warrior.
The routine of everyday life begins to weigh on Dave. He realizes that he has a choice and, in fact, does not have to partake in the status quo. Seeking the aid of Hit Girl, the newly revived and revitalized Kick-Ass is looking to suit up, team up, and fight crime again. Good thing, too. As fate would have it, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has ceased to be both the Red Mist and the child of his gangster family. After the quasi-accidental death of his mother and still seeking the revenge he so desperately wants for the murder-via-bazooka of his father by Kick-Ass, Chris takes on the super villain persona of “The Motherfucker” and cultivates an army of colorful goons and hoodlums to wreak havoc in the streets of New York City.
The thing that made the original Kick-Ass movie such a charm to watch was its own self-aware, tongue in cheek parody of the genre. Kick-Ass 2 hangs on to that self-awareness and tries to expand on it by adding more characters, more depth to the characters that we already know, and a more rounded approach to a world run over by vigilante crime fighters and evil villains. That, and a truckload of more ass-kicking kick-assery. Highlighted by sub-plots of high school ennui, the adolescent standards of belonging, and the need for acceptance by peers, the movie is very ambitious with the broad brush strokes it uses to paint the entire picture of this universe.
Although not as scene-steal-y as her role in the previous installment, Chloë Grace Moretz’s Mindy/Hit Girl feels like the main eye-catch of the story. Her over the top action sequences are balanced out by her navigation of growing up in a way that feels honest and sincere, like she could be someone you knew when you were a freshman in high school. Still, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kick-Ass is the center piece and the namesake of the the movie and his performance is still fun and earnest. Watching Kick-Ass as he comes to realize the synergy between the responsibilities of his real life and the consequences of his vigilante life is interesting enough, but, unfortunately, doesn’t deliver the emotional payoff that would balance the eye dazzling action sequences and gratuitous action-violence.
The movie’s undoing is just that: the story points fail to be interesting enough to make a balanced movie. Even with the addition of new and interesting characters, most notably Jim Carrey’s Colonel Stars and Stripes and Donald Faison’s Dr. Gravity, the story that the action sequences are woven around tends to plod on at times. Sure, the movie takes a parody style approach to addressing themes of classism, racism, as well as technological genocide and societal ailments, but in an age where you can’t swing a stick without hitting a superhero movie in production, you have to make sure that the characters being created are just as engaging as the physical feats they pull off.
Overall, Kick-Ass 2 is a fine sequel to a good superhero movie. Good performances are given by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Cholë Grace Moretz, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Great action sequences peppered by mediocre storytelling makes for a fine summer popcorn muncher, but not a movie that sticks with you.
Kick-Ass 2 opens today in Philly area theaters.