Way back when in ye old 2008, a Mark (not trying to be Frank) Millar wrote a story about a teenage boy who desperately wanted to be a superhero. The slight draw back of not having any superpowers, no means to get them and the fighting ability of bar of soap did not deter him in the slightest. So arming himself one night with nothing but a wetsuit, two truncheons and a dream he set off to make his mark and had his Ass both Kicked and handed to him on a platter made of his own bone marrow. Turns out this was actually for the best and that skeleton had outgrown it's usefulness anyway. With some intense physical rehabilitation, some worn out nerve endings and a few plates of metal he goes back on patrol, with the useful side affect of a very high pain threshold. His fighting prowess unchanged but now he has unlocked a similar technique that Rocky Balboa used to defeat Clubber Lang.
He may be a chump, but he ain't breathing heavy.
It was an interesting premise and thanks to some stylised, ultra-violent art by John Romita Jr it did quite well on release. Well enough for the 8 issue comic book to be printed as a complete volume graphic novel soon afterwards, so naturally a film adaptation was next to come, right? Err... not quite; you see before the first issue of the comic was sold this story already had a film deal, thanks to the collaboration of Matthew Vaughn who would direct, write and finance the project and Mrs Jonathan Ross 'Jane Goldman' to help pen the screenplay. This was ambitious to say the least; a £30,00000 film of a little known comic/graphic novel that they were banking on being a smash hit at best and a cult at worst after the comic had only been in circulation for less than 3 years.
It did... surprisingly well; the comic book clearly had it's fans and the premise was enough to get a lot of people interested thanks to pretty extensive ad campaign and word of mouth. When it hit DVD and Blu-Ray though, that's when it really made it's mark. Like me, a lot of people missed it in the cinemas and the first look we had was at home. I liked Kick-Ass, it wasn't a great film but it will be one I remember fondly. The script was tight, the performances were good all around, Nicholas Cage was both hilarious and a 'bad ass' with one of the best filmed action set pieces I have ever seen on film.
Above all it was just a really fun film to watch, so when the sequel emerged it's fair to say I was looking forward to it.
After viewing it I walked out of the cinema with somewhat mixed feelings.
On the one hand I enjoyed the film, it made me laugh and some of the performances were exceptional. On the other hand though the film doesn't flow quite right and the director seems to have been watching too much of Family Guy in order to get some of the big laughs. Gross out humour may work for some people but anything that makes me stop watching the film because my I've covered my eyes in disgust, is always going to be marked down in my opinion.
I also found Kick-Ass 2 quite hard to watch for other reasons too. The fight choreography is wonderful but the cinematography is awful at times. Once again we have followed the same tired Hollywood formula of having fight scenes shot close enough to start a conga line and the cameraman's hands made out of jellied slinkys. Why is this? The first sure as hell didn't do that. Oh yeah I forgot we have a different director now (hello Mr Wadlow, may I call you Jeff?) but even still, didn't it occur to him at all when he was reviewing the takes? Are you telling me that he couldn't see the problem? The problem of not being able to see anything? Am I the only one who finds this ironic?
Kick Ass 2 has another fairly glaring problem. It's a bit hard to explain so let me break it down like this:
You watch Star Wars; you may like it, you may not but the one thing you don't do is think you are watching anything other than Star Wars. It doesn't suddenly change focus, directing style, cinematography and feel like you are watching some intergalactic Ferris Bueller's Day Off. I know that's a fairly crazy thing to say but the point I'm trying to make is that Kick Ass 2 doesn't seem like Kick Ass 2 all the time and it should do. It's just not consistent, the tone is all over the place. At one point it felt like I was watching a direct to DVD continuation of the American Pie series and what the blue holy hell were Union J doing in this? I don't think I have ever seen a more shameless display of gratuitous self promotion in a film. They have not even broken into the United States yet they are portrayed as famous as Justin Bieber (only with more swooning and less lubricating their fans with their own saliva) The whole scene they are in is just flat out insulting and absurd, as is the supposed 'hilarious' nod to Mr Creosote in the school canteen with the aid of a super dooper secret gizzymo direct from DARPA. It makes the idea of a sixteen year old kunoichi killer with a purple Mia Wallace wig and a fabulous cape seem quite plausible.
This should not be what I'm thinking about when after I've seen a Kick-Ass film. I should be thinking of how cool the characters, how brutal the beatings were, how unapologetically smug the violence was and how it always had it's tongue firmly imbedded in it's scabbed over cheek. Kick Ass 2 doesn't bring this home; it's nowhere near as violent, shocking, witty and humorous as the first and at times it resorts to cheap laughs that can fall way off the mark.
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is as good in the title role as he was in the first but I just didn't believe him as much. I get that he gets better due to training with Hit-Girl but the roid-brushed body shots just seemed like pointless female fan service. Full marks to him for getting into a shape that he could use to audition for a live action Johnny Bravo, I just wish it was in a different film. Like so many things it just seemed to clash with his own character.
Chloe Grace Mortez is on fine form as Hit-Girl, it's just a shame the script can't match her talent. Plus because she's older (and looks it, almost emphatically) the character looses the impact that made Hit-Girl so memorable. Despite that she brings both a likable and moving performance.
Wish I could say the same for Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Mary Whitehouse's favourite villain 'The Mother Tucker ' (give or take a letter). I didn't like him in this, I thought he was ok in the first but in this he is just there for us to laugh at him, and at times it's even hard to do that. His costume is beyond ridiculous, he looks about as intimidating as Boris Johnson dressed as a goldfish. I understand what they were going for and that he's supposed to be a complete loser but this is our MAIN villain. The comic incarnation arguably went too far what with the rape, the child killing and canine decapitation but there's no reason the film villain can't be somewhat evil. Problem is Mintz-Plasse as an actor is about as threatening as his name sounds. I'm probably being unfair though, the way the character is written even Christopher Walken couldn't imbue it with more menace.
Overall I enjoyed but was also disappointed by it and the more I think about it the more I pick at it like an inflamed midge bite. It's really beginning to itch too
It was initially a 3.5 but the score I'm giving it is:
3 out of 5 (worth a look but not as good as the first)
A special mention must go out to Olga Kurkulina as Mother Russia; one of the most impressive and memorable screen henchman(woman) since Jaws. I have no idea where they found this 6'4 female colossus but this is a great example of what you can do with a character if you decide to outreach your casting team.