News Column

Contra Costa Times Tony Hicks column

August 14, 2013

YellowBrix

Aug. 14--"Kick-Ass 2" doesn't kick much ass.

Well, literally, it does. In fact, more derri res probably were kicked in it than in the first "Kick-Ass" (though, thankfully, nothing here matches the gruesomeness of Nicolas Cage's death in the original).

However, the sequel doesn't come anywhere close to matching the freshness, outrageousness and fun of the original; nor does it manage to keep alive the irony and tongue-in-cheek delight of having overmatched nerds putting on costumes and trying to fight crime.

Our high school hero, Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), once again has his hands full with a re-energized and vengeful Chris D'Amico/Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who assembles a

psychotic band of killers to exact his revenge on Kick-Ass for the death of his father. The occasional doubt Red Mist showed in the original over whether he even wanted to be a super villain is completely gone. That is too bad, because his character is now devoid of humanity. He's just angry and wants to kill, and the few attempts at giving him a shade of Dr. Evil-like humor fall flat.

Kick-Ass has another problem: His strongest ally, Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), has abandoned crime-fighting to try being a normal high school student. The resulting semi-"Mean Girls" subplot is probably the movie's strongest storyline, even if it is completely predictable. Hit-Girl stole the first movie -- and was the center of much of the film's

controversy about its violent, crude content -- and she doesn't lose her appeal in the sequel. If only you could say that about the rest of the movie.

Then there's the much-buzzed-about addition of Jim Carrey in the sequel. Unfortunately, his turn as the Mafia hitman-turned costumed vigilante good-guy Stars and Stripes is terribly disappointing. Carrey -- who declined to promote the movie, saying he felt it was too violent -- simply doesn't get enough screen time to invest his character with his patented brand of frenetic nuttiness. He could have made the movie so much better; if you've seen the trailers, you've seen the best Stars and Stripes has to offer. Other notable actors, such as Donald Faison and John Leguizamo, are similarly wasted.

That's not to say the movie completely lacks heart. The naive earnestness of Kick-Ass as he attempts to fight evil is still there, even if it isn't quite as desperate as in the first movie. The heroic buildup of Mindy transforming back into Hit-Girl pays off, but not spectacularly. Still, it's terribly fun to watch Hit-Girl flatten a half-dozen grown men at a time (if only they could work her into the next "Avengers" film).

But other than Hit-Girl's action scenes, much of the movie's violence seems more serious and thus unsettling than in the first movie. Or maybe the concept has just worn out its welcome. Either way, this feels like a movie that can't decide whether it wants to mirror the violence of a serious action-thriller, or spoof it.

There are some questionable attempts at appealing to the 14-year-old boys in the audience: projectile vomiting, a rape joke, extreme language. Then again, the whole movie could be considered a questionable attempt at appealing to 14-year-old boys, as the delightful irony of the first "Kick-Ass" was apparently exhausted before the sequel was made.

"Kick-Ass 2" has its moments, thanks mainly to Moretz. Hopefully, when she rides off into the sunset at the end

of "Kick-Ass 2," she has already decided she won't bother coming back for a "Kick-Ass 3."

Contact Tony Hicks at Facebook.com/BayAreaNewsGroup.TonyHicks or Twitter.com/insertfoot.

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(c)2013 the Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.)

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