Following in the wake of a moderately enjoyable initial instalment from the spectacularly overpraised Matthew Vaughn, Kick Ass 2 opens in theatres this weekend to nary a smidgen of the positivity that greeted the first film in the series. As an fan of Kick Ass it is with a heavy heart that I admit to being on the side of lesser enthusiasm.
In short (and quite literally, for this is what I Tweeted as the credits rolled), Kick Ass 2 is an ugly, cynical, nasty little film. While the first film had heart aplenty, and rumblings of a pretty interesting subtext, it’s all but gone this second time around. In keeping with the aesthetic path of earlier series director Matthew Vaughn, the film is aesthetically displeasing, with the soft focus, Manchester for New York cut-price Blockbusterism of Kick Ass here replaced by a nauseating shaky-cam and unconvincing locales that don’t so much as ape the comic-book sensibilities to which the source material owes a debt as they do a hastily put together video-game cut scene.
There are a couple of saving graces. The core cast are solid enough, with special mention to Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the disaffected side-kick turned super villain, a performance which allows genuine progression for an actor who’s run the risk of typecast for much of his career, while Chloe Grace Moretz, as the returning Hit Girl carries with her the most satisfying story arc in the picture. The comedic beats are hit or miss, but when they do work they do impress. Clark Duke, as the erstwhile best friend of the titular Kick Ass turned superhero in his own right is a particular highlight, with his reworking of the Batman mythology as his own a genuinely humorous aside. Also impressive is the film’s score, which somehow manages to get away with not only re-appropriating John Murphy’s stirring score to Danny Boyle’s Sunshine, but also reworking certain themes from said score to fit it’s latest home.
Back in 2010, when offering up my thoughts on the original Kick Ass I posited that the theme of escalation, and the effects there of offered up the most interesting angle for future examination for the film series
. Alas, it doesn’t quite live up to expectations. We’ve since seen Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Trilogy
, perhaps the ultimate commercial thesis on cinematic escalation, play out to its end point in the years since, while other impressive rumination’s on the same sort of ideas have come to the fore too (Marvel’s in-house series, time has been kind to Zack Snyder’s Watchmen
). As it stands it feels as though the Kick Ass
series has very little to say. It even somehow retroactively makes one question the quality of the first films central argument, due to the unimpressive nature in which it has played out here. One might suggest that the series needs a more cutting, analytical eye to push the series forwards, and to draw out some kind of commentary or point. I flippantly suggested that the film’s meanderings on suburbania and the American high school dream would benefit from the eye of Detention
filmmaker Joseph Kahn, such is his ability towards being able to pick apart and deconstruct the American dream in it’s formative stages.