BY VAN ROBERTS
Costume-clad crime fighters patrol the streets once again in the sequel to director Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick Ass” (2010), with Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz reprising their roles as Kick Ass and Hit-Girl. Jim Carrey, who looks nothing like himself, replaces Nicolas Cage as the grown-up superhero mentor. No, he doesn’t play the Big Daddy character that Cage incarnated. Instead, Carrey plays a goon named Captain Stars and Stripes, a born-again Christian who made his living as a mafia enforcer. Happily, “Cry Wolf” writer and director Jeff Wadlow sticks with Vaughn’s surefire formula and serves up a sufficient number of hyperkinetic, gravity-defying, acrobatic combat sequences. Wadlow choreographs these clashes in “Kick Ass 2” (***1/2 out of ****) in such an aesthetically pleasing manner that the carnage doesn’t seem as horrific as in the original. Mind you, this outlandish but energetic, 103-minute, R-rated, melodrama features profane language galore and an array of mean-spirited characters that you won’t soon forget. Comparably, the original “Kick Ass” relied far more on more blood and gore than its’ virtually immaculate sequel. The massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary school may have accounted for toned-down content of “Kick Ass 2.” Can anybody forget that microwave scene at the home construction store where the mobster exploded like a raspberry Danish? Nevertheless, neither “Kick Ass” movie boasted the kind of blood, gore, and mayhem that Mark Millar depicted in his outrageous graphic novels. The premise that an 11-year old adolescent female could wield a variety of lethal weapons with such a devastating expertise made “Kick Ass” audacious in its own right. The sequel takes the violence to another level and carries on the saga in the aftermath of Big Daddy’s demise. Although he doesn’t appear in “Kick Ass 2,” Nicolas Cage makes a cameo in the form of pictures of his dorky character. The villains are appropriately despicable, and one—Mother Russia—could pass for Dolph Lundgren’s illegitimate daughter.
In “Kick Ass,” high school student Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson of “Savages”) wondered why nobody ever slipped into a superhero costume and waged a war against crime. Poor Dave learned the hard way that life was not a comic book. Ruffians shellacked him so righteously that Dave’s physicians had to perform some minor “Wolverine” like alterations to his body. Nevertheless, despite his metal plates and damaged nerve endings, Dave still felt the pain and agony of repeated whippings. Eventually, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz of “Hugo”) intervened and teamed up with Dave. A former NYPD detective, Big Daddy was determined to exact vengeance on crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) for framing him as a drug dealer and sending him to prison for five years. Meantime, Dave wasn’t the only person who thought it would be cool to impersonate a superhero. Frank’s dimwit son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse of “Superbad”) wanted to learn the ropes of his father’s business. Frank refused to let him into the mob until Big Daddy launched his campaign against his organization. Chris dressed up like a goofy superhero, dubbed himself ‘Red Mist,’ and careened around in a scarlet sports cars puffing on pot to take the edge off. Chris used Dave as a patsy to reach Big Daddy. As Red Mist, he managed to shoot Hit Girl and capture Big Daddy for Frank. Frank’s henchmen incinerated Big Daddy in front of an Internet audience. Hit Girl swore revenge with Dave. She wiped out most of Frank’s mob while Dave blew up the crime chieftain with a bazooka, leaving Chris behind ranting for his own retribution. At this point, Dave realized the real world was no place for comic book heroics.
As “Kick Ass 2” unfolds, Dave basks in the admiration of his fellow New Yorkers who have picked up his mantle and prowl the streets. Hit Girl has hung up her outfit and stashed her arsenal after her guardian, NYPD Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut of “The Call”), insisted she had no business thwarting crime. Now, Hit Girl is just Mindy Macready. She is experiencing life in high school. She runs afoul of a clique like those in “Mean Girls,” but proves she can hold her own against these dames. At one point, Mindy resorts to the ‘sick stick’ to bring down three divas who try to trash her reputation. Once the ‘sick stick’ touches an individual that person involuntarily blows chunks out of both ends. This scene qualifies as the funniest in this otherwise hardcore actioneer. Reluctantly, largely because he is bored, Dave dons his emerald green outfit to wade back into his war against crime. He learns about Captain Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey of “Ace Ventura”) who has mobilized his own Justice Forever vigilante group. Meantime, Chris hasn’t forgotten about Kick Ass and Hit Girl. He wants to kill them, but his mother ( Yancy Butler of TV’s “Witchblade”) stands in his way. Predictably, Chris disposes of her and then creates a new identity. In “Kick Ass,” Chris sought to be a superhero. In “Kick Ass 2,” however, he prefers to be a super villain! He christens himself as ‘The Motherf**ker’ and assembles a squad of sadists, with Mother Russia (newcomer Olga Kurkulina), who models a red bikini with the traditional style Communist hammer and sickle. Wait until you see what this wench can do!
The original “Kick Ass” constituted a handbook for child abuse. Big Daddy taught his 11-year old daughter how to handle weapons of every description until she was proficient in their usage. At one point, he strapped her into a bulletproof vest so he could prepare her for the sensation of being struck by a bullet. The sight of a young girl—imagine a female version of Daniel in the lion’s den—decimating drug dealers and street thugs—made “Kick Ass” as distinctive as it did offensive. “Kick Ass 2” doesn’t so much surpass “Kick Ass” as it holds its own against it. Watch out for the revelation during the end credits!