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Kick Ass 2 Review

"You don't have to be a bad-ass to be a super hero. You just have to be brave." - Mindy Macready (Hit Girl)


 

And thus does the summer blockbuster season draw to a close. It started early and strong with a double bill of Oblivion and a midnight preview showing of Iron Man 3 and we locked it off with Pain & Gain and Kiss-Ass 2. Coincidentally, both double bills began with last minute additions as openers and both ended with highly anticipated super hero epics. All in all, it’s been an epic summer at the multiplex!!!

So, Kick-Ass 2? Let’s go back a couple of years and take it from the beginning.

I had never heard of Kick-Ass until I saw the trailer. The original printed material had passed me by. Y’see most of my comic book super hero reading (of which there is a LOT) comes from either Marvel or DC to the detriment, I guess of every other publisher. (Yes, I keep being asked whether I’m more DC than Marvel, or is it the other way around. Really, I can hardly ever give the same answer twice in a row. I keep going back and forth. It depends on what I’m reading at the time. At the moment, it’s the Superman for Tomorrow graphic novel I picked up in Manchester’s Forbidden Planet several days ago.)

Anyhow, I had seen the trailer for Kick-Ass and, like everybody else - thought it was a comedy. The trailer strongly gave that impression. There was nothing in it to give the notion that it was anything else. However, curious as I was - I bought the graphic novel. The fact that John Romita Jnr was an artist on it was another selling point. His dad drew Spider-Man for Marvel back in the sixties, and Junior has followed the web slinging family tradition. I practically read the book in one sitting on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Surely there was NO way that what I was seeing on those pages would ever make it on to the screen. There was just no way that would ever be possible. The story is pretty vicious and hard hitting.

I mean, beating, torturing, deaths of characters, the language? The story has Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) a comic book fan deciding to wear a costume and become a super hero, calling himself Kick-Ass, despite having no powers, skills or any real aptitude. The comedy comes from his ineptness as a super hero and his awkwardness as a teenager. He meets up with Big Daddy ( Nicolas Cage doing a great deadpan Adam West delivery) and his daughter Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Mortez). They soon run foul of a crime family and a bloodbath ensues.

With a little bit of softening to the plot so the film could actually be released, what we saw on the screen was pretty damn close to what I had read.

So, it’s sequel time and writer Mike Millar and artist Romita have teamed up again - and as I happened to be in Manchester, I picked up the graphic novel, which once again was read in one sitting and once again was pure gold. There was a "Hit Girl" prequel book to this which I haven’t picked up yet but I’m going to have to address that. I think that about a third of the movie has come from that prequel because it wasn’t in what I’ve read and explains a lot of what’s happening with the Hit Girl character in the book - but that’s an aside. Let’s get on with the screening.

Trailers - that White House Down trailer is splitting my decision whether I want to see the film or not. I bought Olympus Has Fallen last Monday and White House Down seems to be exactly the same film with a bigger f/x budget. Has anybody out there seen it? Can you confirm or correct this supposition?

Another thing I saw was an ad for the final season of Breaking Bad. First off, after a lifetime of seeing trailers for movies on the TV urging me to get off my ass and go see a movie in the cinema, it amuses the hell out of me to go to the cinema and see trailers urging me to stay at home and watch TV. I’ve never watched an episode of Breaking Bad - I just don’t have the time to watch everything that’s out there, but what I found intriguing and thanks to Steve for pointing it out - the guy I saw briefly on the screen was Byan Cranston, currently rumoured to be cast as Lex Luthor in the next Superman movie. Now if there rumours are true - I think we’re going to get the Luthor we’ve all been waiting for. Gene Hackman and Kevin Spacey have played the role too comedically. Michael Rosenbaum did an admirable job of gradually developing the evil character over several seasons of Smallville but damn, I could buy into Cranston as an evil genius from the get-go.

So, Kick-Ass 2. Most of the pre publicity for the film has come from Jim Carrey’s reluctance to publicise the film in any way due to a sudden attack of conscience and disdain for firearms since the Sandy Hook massacre. I’m calling bullshit on this. Carrey would of course have known what the film was about - he had a script for crying out loud, he would have been all too aware of the content and the tone of violent mayhem. My guess is that Carrey’s refusal to do any publicity was part of the publicity campaign all along. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, and the fact that an A lister like Carrey "distances" himself from this film had given it a publicity push worth millions. Having said that, his portrayal of Colonel Stars & Stripes here is, in my mind, his best performance since The Majestic. (A lot of people reckon that Carrey’s best "straight" non-goofy Jerry Lewis schtick performance is The Truman Show, and while I agree that IS indeed great, I champion The Majestic. It’s the type of film that Frank Capra would have made, probably with Jimmy Stewart in Carrey’s role.)

While the film is called Kick-Ass, it’s not the title character who really lights up the screen. Stealing the show once again is Chloe Grace Moretz as Mindy Macready/Hit Girl.
 


Mortez is an awesomely talented actress, and while I have no doubt that she’s more than capable of tackling the role of Carrie White in the upcoming remake, I’m having a tough time buying her in the role. Carrie is a plain, pale, almost invisible ugly duckling who is the constant butt of her classmates jokes and cruel pranks. She morphs into the queen of the prom and the jealous bitch who’s been torturing her daily takes a revenge that leads to total mayhem. Sissy Spacek epitomised Carrie in both her "before" and "after" phases in Brian de Palma’s film, but I think Moretz is too cute to be the dowdy loser. I always thought Dakota Fanning would have been a better choice. But having said that, Mindy Macready is similarly the target in a sequence here, and Mortez shows without a doubt that she can convey the bitter hurt of being set up and betrayed by those she trusted, so maybe I’m wrong.

Taking place shortly after the first film, events that I won’t spoil here conspire to see Hit Girl reluctantly retire, despite having promised her late father to carry on defending the city. Kick-Ass himself has inspired several more people to take up the masked mantles of super heroism. People like Doctor Gravity, armed with a gravity nullifying weapon (actually a baseball bat wrapped in tinfoil), Night Bitch - out to avenge her murdered sister, Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) an ex mob enforcer now turned fighter for truth and justice. Naturally, where there are amateur super heroes, there are also amateur super villains.

Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), son of the late head of the D’Amico crime family became Red Mist last time, betrayed Kick-Ass, was responsible for the capture and ultimate death of Big Daddy and saw his father blasted to puree with a bazooka at the film’s end. This time around, he steps fully into the fray as a super villain, re-naming himself The Motherfucker and dressing himself in a costume based on his mother’s bondage gear.
 

Kick-Ass decides he can’t fight crime alone and is looking for an Avengers/Justice League type of super team to join. Enter Justice Forever. But as fate would have it, The Motherfucker is busy assembling his own super villain team (The Toxic Mega Cunts) which includes Mother Russia, a large, deadly ex-KGB assassin who virtually destroys anything in her way.

Again, several of the points and scenes in the graphic novel have been altered, either to give them a more comedic tone or in some instances have been cut. There’s a street massacre of children that was shown in the book that is hinted at in the film, there’s a gang rape that has mercifully been cut out entirely and the way it’s handled even takes the sting out of the intention. Make no mistake, this film is laugh out loud funny in sequences, and yet becomes wincingly violent and downright uncomfortable to watch at times. Far from glamorising violence it shows that violence (even stylised super heroic violence) has its consequences.

The ending has been completely changed from the source material which shows Hit Girl under arrest and being led in chains to a waiting police van, a situation which will, no doubt be resolved in the third book which is soon to be released. I found that change to be a bit disappointing because it would’ve assured us of a trilogy of Kick-Ass movies, but the ending we have could lead to a further sequel, or it could just finish the cinematic version off right here.

One thing’s for sure - we haven’t seen the last of Aaron Johnson as a super hero. He has signed to play Marvel’s super speedster Quicksilver in The Avengers: Age of Ultron due in 2015.

 

Copyright © 2010 - 2013 Robin Pierce. All Rights reserved.

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