Young superhero Kick-Ass doesnt have any real powers. But hes resourceful, dependable and can take a beating.
By JON NICCUM
Special to The Star
That pretty much describes Kick-Ass 2.
Its hard to defend this follow-up to the 2010 modest hit and critics will no doubt chastise the graphic violence, as co-star Jim Carrey already has but it delivers an oh-so-satisfying saga of revenge, laced with dark, kinky humor.
We catch up with Kick-Ass in his real life as Dave (the solid Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a high school senior dying of boredom who longs to fight crime again. Also pining to get back in the game is 15-year-old Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), whose lethal alter ego Hit-Girl doesnt have much use for Dave.
Im in the NFL. You play Pee Wee, she dismisses.
Fortunately, the exploits of Kick-Ass have inspired countless New York citizens. So Dave joins a team of costumed heroes called Justice Forever that functions more like a support group for victims of violent crime. (Among the members are a husband and wife whose image of their missing child decorates their uniforms.)
Colonel Stars and Stripes (an aberrantly subtle Carrey) is their born-again, camo-garbed leader, whose brutal tactics earn the attention of the underworld.
That underworld is now led by former hero Chris, aka Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who rightly blames Kick-Ass for murdering his father.
My super power is Im incredibly rich, Chris says.
He assembles a cadre of formidable thugs, gives them new identities and garish outfits, and vows to destroy the city. That leaves Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl to thwart his plans.
Its certainly amusing seeing new heroes emerge, such as Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), who convinces enemies hes created a staff that can levitate objects when in reality he just wields a spiked club. But the true revelation in Kick-Ass 2 is witnessing the old characters grow and embark on new journeys.
Moretz is especially impressive. A mere kid in the first film, the confident actress now plays a high schooler whose transition is fraught with conventional social dangers, as when she runs afoul of the head drill-teamer (Claudia Lee) or goes on a first date.
She assures her adoptive father (Morris Chestnut), Dont worry about me. I can kill a man with his own finger.
As displayed in Let Me In and Hugo, Moretz is gifted at internalizing emotions. Her Mindy talks as if shes always thinking about something or someone else. You empathize with this outcast.
But once decked in her purple wig and leather battle gear, she becomes more deadly than Jason Bourne or Ethan Hunt. In the films slickest sequence, Hit-Girl dispatches thugs while atop a speeding van.
Writer-director Jeff Wadlow (whose next project is Marvels X-Force) struggles to get his footing in the first act. He lacks the assurance Matthew Vaughn brought to the initial adaptation of the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. comic book. The contrapuntal humor often falls flat, and the action (mostly Mindys attempts to train Dave) comes across more jittery than kinetic.
However, as the conflicts take shape, the movie settles into a welcome rhythm. The third act turns dark and raises the stakes, forcing the retired heroes back into action. This leads to a gratifying (though rather conventional) showdown where the remaining squads of good and evil square off. Ass-kicking does indeed ensue.
During one of the pictures lighter moments, Chris sits around his lair dreaming up names to call new enforcers, such as Black Death and Genghis Carnage. When hes accused of relying on racial stereotypes, he defends the accusation, claiming they are archetypes.
Thats really the crux of the sequel: archetypes. Despite its genre-busting origin, this is simply good guys vs. bad guys material. And credit to Kick-Ass 2, you desperately root for the good guys to win.