The recent DVD/Blu-Ray release of Kick Ass 2, the eagerly awaited sequel to Kick Ass, should have been an exciting experience, but it was not; the film’s formula reverts to teen angst and misses the high mark set by its predecessor. The end result is a disappointing let down for Chloë Grace Moretz and the audience.
Kick Ass hit the world’s screens in 2010 and critics were divided. Those that got the message that Matthew Vaughn put in his film loved it. The ones who have difficulty in using the more abstract, perhaps intellectual, part of their minds did not. The film was violent, cheeky, disturbing, and touching. Nicolas Cage who played Damon Macready/Big Daddy did so brilliantly and Chloë Grace Moretz, playing the homicidal/foul mouthed Mindy Macready/Hit Girl, stole the film.
The screenplay, co-written by Vaughn, was punchy, funny, sad, and almost realistic. The film’s comic book style worked well and despite the amount of violence being performed by an “11 year-old” girl the film was brilliant. All the characters were interesting and Vaughn’s message was that “real” superheros would be psychotic as well as dangerous felt true. The film’s score was ironic, edgy and funny. Hit Girls penultimate scene where she kills a score of villains in the long hallway of Frank D’Amico’s mansion/hideout played out to the music of Bad Reputation.
By the end of the film Hit Girl and Kick Ass had “moved on” and were rejoining the real world of high school and homework. The late Frank D’Amico’s son Chris/Red Mist, was an angry vengeful teenager who was going to show the world what he was capable of. And therein lies one of the many problems with Kick Ass 2, a film that focuses on teen angst and misses its target by reverting to a tired formula.
Kick Ass 2 begins with Mindy living with Big Daddy’s ex partner, who adopted her after Daniel died in the first film. She is attending the same high school as Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass and they sneak out of school daily to continue training and working as superheros. So far so good, but, it all goes pear shaped. Beginning with the re-introduction of the former Red Mist, Chris D’Amico.
Chris, played in the first film by Christopher Mintz-Plasse with a soaring duality that stunned, has had his wings clipped in Kick Ass 2. With father Frank dead his mother, who was downtrodden and sour in the first film, is now the boss and the former “friend” of Kick Ass has lost his focus. He apparently lost the drive to revenge his father’s death and he is a shadow of the character we last saw at the conclusion of the first film, “Wait till they get a load of me.”
It is this lack of focus not only of Chris, but, every character in the film. The decision to focus on Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit Girl struggling to fit in at high school and the scripts reverting to a tired formula of teen angst, lets the audience and Moretz down. While it is true that the script is emulating the comic book is a poor excuse to destroy what should have been a brilliant sequel.
Another problem deals with the downward arc of Kick Ass himself Dave Lizewski, still played capably by Brit actor Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and his loss of focus. His character at the beginning of the film has regressed. He does not fight for justice any longer, except for a brief time with Hit Girl and his overenthusiastic acceptance of Jim Carrey’s citizen superhero league rings false. Did he not learn about other super heroes when Red Mist used him to kill Big Daddy in the first film?
The reason for this disconnect between the superior first film and this lacklustre sequel can be explained in two words, Jeff Wadlow. For Kick Ass 2, Matthew Vaughn steps out of the director’s chair and lets Wadlow helm the film. Vaughn did not help write the script and neither did Jane Goldman, instead Wadlow co-wrote the new script and directed the picture leaving Vaughn in the role of producer.
Wadlow has three short films and two feature length films under his belt. His first, the uneven Cry Wolf which featured Lindy Booth was not exactly a shining example of why he should direct the Kick Ass sequel. Booth has a small role as Night Bitch in Kick Ass 2 and it is the obvious connection with Wadlow that explains her presence in the film. Not that Booth does not do a good job, but, like the rest of the film, she does not have much to live up to.
Even the film’s score and soundtrack misses the mark completely. Gone is the ironic use of pop songs and iconic film scores – think anything Ennio Morricone – instead the score sounds like, a score. Not that topical, funny, tongue-in-cheek use of music that Vaughn used as his backdrop in the first film.
The news that Moretz has said she would love to reprise her role as Hit Girl is only exciting if the next film iteration of the franchise goes back to its roots. Mindy Macready may well be growing up, but, Hit Girl is a constant. She was the true star of the first film and her toned down language for the second film hurt the character’s believability. Sadly all of the characters had been diminished and the bloody carnage attempted to make up for it, to little effect.
Kick Ass was a small British film that managed to look like a blockbuster Hollywood hit. Kick Ass 2 and its teen angst script lets down Chloe Moretz and the audience with its “anyone can be a hero” message and the lack of appearances of Hit Girl. The sequel with its bigger budget looks flat and fails to recreate that Hollywood epic feel. The Blu-Ray copy of the film has special features that, sadly, not many will be interested in.
By Michael Smith