2013 is the year of the superhero. With so many spandex-clad hunks flying through the silver-screen skies, it would be easy for Jeff Wadlow’s follow-up to the 2010 action-comedy “Kick-Ass” to get lost in the crowd. What “Kick-Ass 2” lacks in shiny hair and noble origin stories, however, it makes up for with complete and utter irreverence. The sequel to Matthew Vaughn’s original film adaptation of the normal-kids-turned-superheroes comic book story is just as foul-mouthed and unapologetically violent as its predecessor. With a slew of new characters and a fresh team of writers, “Kick-Ass 2” hold its own as a worthy follow-up to 2010’s surprise hit.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz) are back as Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl. After the death of Hit-Girl’s father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), in the first film, the two teen crime fighters have hung up their capes and are trying their best to fit into the real world of homework and high school mean girls. Mindy, who would “rather be waterboarded than listen to Justin Bieber,” just can’t seem to give up being Hit-Girl, so she persuades Dave to get back in his costume and hit the streets with her again. When Mindy gets grounded for sneaking out, Dave joins forces with a league of masked crusaders, Justice Forever, run by a born-again ex-mafia member called Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).
The appearance of Justice Forever inspires Kick-Ass’s old foe, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), to reinvent himself as the world’s first supervillain, The Motherfucker. He puts together his own league of evildoers, known as the Toxic Mega Cunts, to take down Kick-Ass and his crew once and for all. What ensues is the same manic violence set to a bubble-gum soundtrack that made the first installment so refreshingly fun. Justice Forever busts up a crime ring to the tune of “When The Saints Go Marching In” in a scene entirely reminiscent of when Hit-Girl sliced and diced a group of baddies to The Dickies’ “Banana Splits” in the first film. Such nods to the original are frequent, but “Kick-Ass 2” is entertaining in its own right.
While a killer soundtrack and Hit-Girl’s shocking vernacular are just as much fun now as they were in 2010, reveling in violence is certainly less so. “Kick-Ass 2” has the misfortune of arriving at a time when Neighborhood Watch vigilantes and mass shootings make reality just as violent as the movies. Carrey sparked controversy after taking to Twitter to revoke his support for the bloody film in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, writing, “In all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence.” While the film itself certainly does not condone violence, the titular character struggles throughout with the realization that his fantasy of playing a hero has caused so many real deaths. “This is not a comic book,” Kick-Ass says before heading out for a fight. “Real people are going to die tonight.”
Fortunately, “Kick-Ass 2” is just a movie, and real people do not die in movies. Sixteen-year-old Moretz commented on Carrey’s condemnation of the film’s violence to Britain’s The Sun, saying, “It’s a movie, and it’s fake, and I’ve known that since I was a kid … I don’t want to run around trying to kill people and cuss. If anything, these movies teach you what not to do.”
Despite the controversy, Wadlow’s “Kick-Ass 2” seems poised to become a cult favorite, like its predecessor. It’s hilarious, it’s unconventional, it’s action-packed. It’s kick-ass.