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Article by Teddy Durgin

Finally, An Action Flick That Really Does Kick … Well, You Know!

I remember when I reviewed the original "Kick-Ass" three years back for a separate publication that will go nameless here. One reader wrote and said, "How could your critic give a positive review to such a vile, violent film in which a 12-year-old girl is raised from birth to be a glorified assassin, who swears like Sam Kinison, and kills people with glee?!" Another even went the whole, "What kind of a message are you sending to YOUR daughter, Tedward?!" route. The purpose of any review is to determine whether that film works on its own terms. The first "Kick-Ass" did work as an example of extreme cinema, and I think the sequel maintains a LOT of what worked in that first movie. It continues and deepens the story of Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a suburban New York teenager who dons the mask and costume of his superhero alter ego Kick-Ass to inspire others to not be afraid in an increasingly corrupt and wicked world. As the sequel opens, he is being trained by Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), a.k.a. Hit Girl, who is now being raised by her slain father's former police partner, Marcus (Morris Chestnut). Marcus tries his best to get Mindy to be a normal 15-year-old girl interested in boys, boy bands and schoolwork. But her inner Hit Girl continues to hear the call of the streets. At the same time, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has become obsessed with getting revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his mob boss father in the first film. Chris has inherited all of his dad's ill-gotten gains and criminal connections. After having tried to be a superhero in the first film, Chris re-fashions himself a villain and gives a name that rhymes with "The Brother-Clucker." He begins to assemble an army of other baddies to wreak havoc on New York and kill Kick-Ass and his growing group of hero do-gooders. The hardest part about liking and recommending these "Kick-Ass" films are the wild, jarring shifts in tone throughout each. Both flicks are not light on their feet. They drift from broad comedy one moment to hard-core violence the next. So, the audience alternates between laughing and wincing. As in the first film, what overcomes this imbalance is the game and likable cast. The three main actors really inhabit these roles. And this time around, they are joined by Jim Carrey, doing actual character work here as the born-again Colonel Stars and Stripes. And there is still Hit Girl, who I think is one of the great action-movie inventions of the past decade. Here, she has that old, tired character arc of being the reluctant superhero who doesn't know if she/he wants to don the mask and cape anymore and instead live a "normal life." Almost all comic-book movies nowadays have this subplot. And normally, it's just a waste of time, a lot of wheel-spinning until the inevitable moment where the costume goes back on and the fun bad-guy butt kicking resumes. In "Kick-Ass 2," the filmmakers make this cliché subplot work better than any other I've seen by plopping Mindy/Hit Girl down into a "Heathers"-like clique of mean girls and watching her deal with their snobbery. Initially, she is intrigued by their hair and makeup and clothes. She even gets weird stirrings inside when they show her a music video of the latest boy band a la One Direction or Big Time Rush. But Hit Girl just can't stop being Hit Girl. And I can't stop being me. I like a good R-rated action flick with a sense of humor. "Kick-Ass 2" is self-consciously extreme. But it's also very entertaining for those open to the experience. "Kick-Ass" is rated R for violence, language and brief nudity.

 

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