I'm placing this statement at the beginning of this review because, odds are, it'll get read the most here. None of the "bad" films opening this weekend are as bad as some critics are saying. That being said, all of them can be easily ignored this weekend if your other option for film viewing is to see something like PRINCE AVALANCHE or THE ACT OF KILLING or even IN A WORLD… . For those of you declaring the summer of 2013 to be a disappointing one for movies, I hate to sound like a broken record (or skipping CD for you younger folks), but you aren't looking in the right place. Films taking up one screen at a multiplex or playing at our local art houses have been consistently strong all year. And they have certainly saved my summer. It's the reason I maintain my Art-House Round-Up column on Ain't It Cool, and you should feel free to check that out if you need a list of strong closers for the summer of 2013.
So what the hell happened to KICK-ASS 2? It feels weirdly like a research film polling 100 "average" citizens to find out what they liked so much about the first film, and they all got it wrong. Sure the profanity, occasionally excessive violence and overall irreverent attitude made KICK-ASS a great deal of fun in the hands of director Matthew Vaughn. But there were more important messages about family, surviving as an bullied outcast, and a twisted code of justice, all of which are reduced to shadows by writer-director Jeff Wadlow (Vaughn is still listed as a producer).
The film isn't a complete wash either. Still, what I found so frustrating about KICK-ASS 2 is that the elements that might have saved it are ripped right out of the film just as they're getting interesting. The key relationship between Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit Girl (Chlöe Grace Moretz) is reduced to her attempting to cut back her time as the exceedingly violent vigilante and be a "normal" girl, and his attempt to find like-minded civilian heroes and become a team of crime fighters. Hit Girl's storyline is a watered-down version of MEAN GIRLS, while Kick-Ass does meet up with some amusing costumed heroes, including a born-again former gangster named Col. Stars & Stripes (Jim Carrey).
While I understand the filmmakers' need to keep as many characters from the first film as possible, I could have done with a new villain instead of Christopher Mintz-Plasse's Red Mist transformed into the vengeful super villain called The Motherfucker. Some of his assembled evil types are amusing, especially Olga Kurkulina's Mother Russia, who is just big, strong and merciless. There's a sequence in which she dispenses with about a dozen police officers in about three minutes that is pretty nasty, and may not sit well with some. The Motherfucker wants revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his father in the last film, and he's willing to mow down everyone close to Kick-Ass to make that happen.
But true to form in this film, The Motherfucker's most interesting relationship is with his bodyguard Javier (John Leguizamo), who tries to reel in his young charge (whose real name is Chris D'Amico). Let's just say that Javier isn't long for this world, and thus goes one of the view high points in this troubled film.
If all you care about is senseless violence and heroes/villains with names like Battle Guy (Clarke Duke), Mr. Radical, The Tumor, Night Bitch, Genghis Carnage, Insect Man, Black Death, and yes, even Ass Kicker, then maybe you'll let the fact that Hit Girl is almost never Hit Girl. I don't really care if it's faithful to Mark Millar's comic book source material or not; if it doesn't make for interesting movie making, I can't recommend it.
KICK-ASS 2 had so many moments during which I was starting to gain some enthusiasm for what I was watching, and with almost rhythmic precision, it ripped those enjoyable aspects right out from under me, and I was left with a façade of a film that looks like something we saw and loved before, but minus the emotional core that set it apart. I will admit that there aren some things in this movie that I responded to, but my enjoyment peaks were short lived and fairly inauspicious. This is one of those sequels who sole purpose in being seems to be to tarnish the good memories you might have of the original. Who needs that?