There is a movie audience that thinks a child cursing like Samuel L. Jackson is provocative, body parts getting lopped off is exciting, 10 cops getting slaughtered is darkly humorous and people projectile-vomiting into each other’s faces is hysterical. I am not that audience. If you are, though, I guess “Kick-Ass 2” delivers.
The film is the not-exactly-demanded sequel to a 2010 movie, based on the comic book about father-and-daughter crimefighters. Nicolas Cage, at his most entertainingly oddball, was the Batman-styled Big Daddy; Chloe Grace Moretz was his precocious sidekick, Hit Girl.
Cage definitely had fun channeling Adam West, and the first movie sometimes had a bright, comic-book look. But the tone was off even then. The gore was explicit enough to be disgusting, but not extreme enough to be satiric; the film outraged without being outrageous.
“Kick-Ass 2” is a step down.
Although there’s still something sweet deep-down in the concept – average Americans without any special powers dress up as superheroes to fight crime – it’s not developed with any particular wit or imagination. Cage is gone, and there’s nothing fresh in this sequel’s returning characters, or the supervillains they face.
And while director Jeff Wadlow handles the action capably, at least when it comes to Hit Girl’s hyper-callisthenic style, the rest of the film feels as slapdash as the first; there isn’t even an attempt to hide the Toronto area codes, store names and street signs visible everywhere in its “New York” locations.
Which would actually be a funny idea for a movie someday – having its characters pretend to be in Manhattan while standing in front of obvious Canadian landmarks.
I mean, heaven knows this movie could use some ideas. Any ideas. (The final “battle” – with dozens of costumed nerds attacking each other — looks like a cranky disagreement at Comic Con, and a high-school subplot is a steal from “Mean Girls,” of all things.)
Even the things the film depends on for shock value – foul language, explosive diarrhea and bloody sadism – aren’t even that shocking. They’re just gross.
In fact, one of the stars – Jim Carrey, who plays a military-style hero called Colonel Stars and Stripes – has already disavowed the film as being too violent. He’s outraged! Outraged, I tell you! (Although, tell me Jim, now that your check has cleared – how did you think that scene where you sic a dog on a bound man’s genitals was going to play?)
As it is, nothing plays very well. Although Aaron Taylor-Johnson is technically the lead – he plays the titular crimefighter – he makes absolutely no impression. A hard-working Christopher Mintz-Plasse ekes out a few laughs as a villain whose name can’t be printed here.
Carrey, meanwhile, under some rubbery prosthetics, plays the whole thing pretty straight – a relief, perhaps, to anyone who suffered through his Riddler in “Batman Forever,” but not exactly the jolt of life this movie desperately needs.
If it works at all, fitfully, it’s because of the precociously talented and in-control Moretz, who basically carries the entire film on her own small shoulders.
She snaps out her lines with verve and authority; she has a wonderful physicality in her no-joke fight scenes. And she does a lot with a little – in one quiet scene she conveys a depth of feeling simply by the way she walks away from the camera.
But she should have kept walking. And so should we.
5 out of 10