Kick-Ass 2 (Universal Pictures, R)

Kick-Ass-2 75Just know that it’s really weird.

Kick-Ass-2 500

I’m still not sure I believe that there is a sequel to Kick-Ass, and I’ve seen it. The first film is a weird cult item, which awkwardly mixes broad humor with very dark violence. I like it, as do many other people, but the fact that it exists at all is kind of crazy. It’s the type of movie which should not have a sequel, and yet, here we are. Even more surprisingly, the sequel is actually good.

The story picks up a few years after the first. Dave Lizewski, aka Kick-Ass, is trying to get back into the vigilante game, and seeks training from the still active Mindy Macready, aka Hit-Girl. After that doesn’t go very well, Mindy reluctantly gives up the superhero life, in an attempt to be a normal girl. Dave ends up teaming with a group of underground superheroes. And all the while, Chris D’Amico, son of the villain from the last film and former friend of Kick-Ass, builds an army in an attempt to become the world’s first supervillain.

The story of Kick-Ass 2 is not particularly dense, but it feels like a logical continuation from the first film. The first film introduced the idea that Kick-Ass had inspired other people to dress up in costumes and hit the streets. This film tackles that head-on. The first film ended with Chris D’Amico quoting Jack Nicholson’s Joker, implying that he would become a villain. These were throwaway ideas in the first film, and I like that this one picks them up. It feels like an actual escalation, rather than just redoing the same thing over again.

I know that I was concerned about this movie when director Matthew Vaughn was replaced by Jeff Wadlow, director of such classics as Never Back Down and Cry Wolf. I just assumed that Kick-Ass 2 would be a toned down, safer imitation of the original. It is not. They keep the same tone here, which is simultaneously good and bad. On the one hand, this movie is still really weird, and it will make you feel really weird about the way you react to it. But for the most part, I’m glad that this movie sticks to its convictions. It’s funny throughout, but it also goes to some really dark places. The kind of dark places that make audiences turn on movies. Have I mentioned the fact that I can’t believe this movie exists?

I felt that Kick-Ass’ story was pretty much wrapped up in the first film, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well that story was continued here. Unfortunately, the opposite is true of Hit-Girl. Like most people, I felt that Hit-Girl stole the first movie. It makes sense that she would get a sequel, but what they do with her here leaves something to be desired. Once she gives up her life of crime fighting, she’s suddenly in a remake of Mean Girls. That’s not the worst idea, but it’s not executed to its full potential. Chloe Grace Moretz is still charismatic and likable in the role, but it ends up feeling like every other movie in which the superhero gives up their powers; like we’re just wasting time until they get them back again.

Expectations have a huge impact on how we view movies. I think it’s worth noting that I had absolutely no expectations for this movie. I expected it to be kind of terrible, so when it turned out pretty good, my sense of surprise probably added to my enjoyment. I don’t know how well this movie will hold up to repeat viewings, but I liked it quite a bit, and if you liked the first film, this is a mostly worthy follow-up. Just know that it’s really weird. | Sean Lass

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