CINEMA KNIFE FIGHT: KICK-ASS 2 (2013)
Review by L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda
(THE SCENE: A secret meeting room where a team of underground superheroes gets together for the first time)
THE CRABLEG: Hear ye, hear ye. I am now calling to order the first official meeting of the Super Bunch. Please note that the honorable Crableg is bringing the meeting to order.
CRUNKMAN: And what is your power again?
THE CRABLEG: I can walk sideways, like a crab. I have giant metal gloves that look like pincers – but I don’t have them on now because it’s impossible to use your fingers with them on. And I get half-price specials at any Red Lobster restaurant for life.
CRUNKMAN: Yeah, that’s what I thought.
THE CRABLEG: What about you?
CRUNKMAN: I’m Crunkman. What do you think I do? I crunk! I do some funky crunk and break dancing, thus confusing my enemy so I can get close enough to give them an ass-whupping.
THE CRABLEG: If you say so.
(The door opens and L.L. SOARES enters, dressed in a silver suit with the CKF logo on his chest)
THE CRABLEG: And who is this?
LS: I’m the Cinema Knife Fighter (pulls out knives and whips them around)
CRUNKMAN: And what do you do?
LS: I review movies, with my trusty sidekick….er….I guess he hasn’t shown up yet.
THE CRABLEG: Take a seat, knife fighter. Our meeting is just about to start.
(Door opens again, and MICHAEL ARRUDA enters, in a silver suit, with the CKF logo on his chest)
CRUNKMAN: Who’s this?
MA: I’m the Cinema Knife Fighter! (pulls out knives and whips them around)
THE CRABLEG: Anyone else here starting to feel some déjà vu?
THE CRABLEG: Don’t tell me, your power is reviewing movies, right?
MA: How did you know?
CRUNKMAN: We already have a Cinema Knife Fighter. You have to change your name.
LS: Haha. I got here first. That means I get to be the Cinema Knife Fighter, and you have to be my sidekick.
MA: Are you kidding me? I’m nobody’s sidekick.
LS: Well that’s about to change.
MA: I don’t think so!
THE CRABLEG: Gentlemen! Gentlemen! This meeting must come to order. For the time being, I guess you can both be Cinema Knife Fighters. We can discuss any name changes later. But we must begin our meeting.
CRUNKMAN: Take a seat, man.
(MA sits down next to LS)
LS: Couldn’t you at least get a different color suit?
MA: I got this on sale. What’s your excuse?
LS: I had mine custom made.
MA: Oh yeah? Then how did I find this one in the store which looks exactly like yours?
LS: I put it there. It was an extra. Thanks for the dough, buddy!
MA: You bastard!
LS: Face it, you’re going to have to be my sidekick, Knife Boy.
MA: Don’t “Knife Boy” me!
LS: How about “Knife Lad”?
THE CRABLEG: Gentlemen! You must stop fighting or we are going to have to ask you to leave.
CRUNKMAN: I have an idea! Why don’t you two have a review-off?
CRUNKMAN: A review slam.
CRUNKMAN: Just review a damn movie already!
MA: Well, why didn’t you just say so? Our movie this week is KICK-ASS 2. Since you got here first, L.L, why don’t you start the review.
LS: I don’t wanna start the review. You start it.
THE CRABLEG: Enough of your bickering. (points to LS) Just start the review already!
LS: Very well, Mighty Crableg. Our movie this week is KICK-ASS 2, the sequel to 2010’s KICK-ASS, which was a real surprise to me and Michael at the time. We thought it would be just another lame superhero movie, but it was a nice change of pace.
MA: Yes it was.
LS: Do you mind? I’m starting the review here.
MA: So don’t speak for me, then. Besides, it’s my job to put in my two cents every chance I get.
LS: Two Cents. A nice name for a sidekick.
MA: Haha! Get on with the review. I’ll come up with my own name, thank you very much.
LS: Anyway, the first movie was about a normal everyday kid named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who decides “Wouldn’t it be cool to be a real life superhero.” So he puts on a costume and calls himself Kick-Ass. But in real life, he gets the crap beat out of him. Eventually, he gets better at it. Meanwhile, there are other superheroes in town, namely Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter and sidekick Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). They all end up facing off against a local crime boss, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his son, the superhero wannabe Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who goes by the moniker Red Mist. In the first movie, the good guys win, but in the process Big Daddy dies, leaving Hit Girl an orphan, and Kick-Ass shoots Frank D’Amico with a bazooka, killing him, and leaving Chris to vow revenge!
MA: Yep, that’s a nice summary of the first movie. Now, how about this one?
LS: KICK-ASS 2 takes up the story. Mindy Macready, also known as Hit Girl (once again, played by Chloe Grace Moretz) is trying to fit in in high school, while also moonlighting as Hit Girl. She’s also spending a lot of time training Dave/Kick-Ass (Taylor-Johnson) so that he can be a more effective hero. Meanwhile, Chris/Red Mist (Mintz-Plasse) has accidentally killed his mother in a tanning booth, and dons some leather S&M outfit of hers he finds while cleaning out her stuff, to become a “the first supervillain,” now called the Mother-F***er (fill in the blanks yourself. This is a family website. Geez!)
Dave wants to team up with Hit Girl to be the new “dynamic duo” but she’s struggling with trying to be a normal girl, while being watched constantly by her guardian (and her dead father’s best friend) Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut), who makes her promise not to be a superhero anymore.
Dave notices that a whole bunch of other people have put on costumes and become superheroes, inspired by him, so he teams up with one of them, a guy named Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison, Turk from the TV show SCRUBS). Eventually, the two of them join up with a whole team of superheroes called Justice Forever, led by a former mob enforcer turned Born Again superhero Sgt. Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). The team also includes an openly gay superhero (the unimaginatively named Insect Man, played by Robert Emms, but the cool part is he won’t wear a mask, because he’s “done being in the closet”)) and a hot chick superheroine named Night Bitch (Lindy Booth). They start fighting crime together, and the team concept actually works! They start cleaning up the city.
Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico’s main superpower as the Mother***cker is that he has a seemingly unlimited amount of cash, thanks to his deceased father, so he pays a bunch of killers and thugs to make up his own team of supervillains. His main enforcer is a towering Russian woman named Mother Russia (Olga Kurkalina) who was formerly in the KGB and who actually seems to have superhuman strength!
The rest of the plot involves these two “super teams” eventually coming to blows. While Dave and Mindy juggle daytime lives where they try to be normal high school kids. The thing is, being “normal” seems to be much more difficult than fighting the bad guys intent on killing them.
Like the first movie, this one features lots of humor mixed with graphic over-the-top violence. So the tone sometimes seems a bit chaotic (is it a comedy? Is it a ruthlessly violent action movie?), but I thought that it worked.
MA: Really? I found this one muddled. Whereas the first one balanced the comedy and action flawlessly, this one stumbles, mostly because it gets mired in some rather uninteresting drama that drags the film down.
Plus, the characters just aren’t as interesting the second time around. In short, this one plays like a sequel. But continue.
LS: I’m a big fan of the first movie, and the second one is more of the same. Not only does it push the story in a logical story direction (thus justifying a sequel for once), but it has the same strengths as the first movie. The characters are interesting, the humorous moments work, and the violence pushes the envelope more than the average Hollywood movie.
MA: I didn’t find the characters anywhere near as interesting this time around. You’re right about the violence though. It pushes the envelope once again, but with a weaker story, it just doesn’t work as well this time.
LS: Once again based on comics by Mark Millar (writer) and John Romita Jr. (artist), KICK-ASS 2 is a better-than-average sequel that actually works. I enjoyed these characters so much the first time, that I was more than happy to revisit them a second time, and things were just as entertaining this time.
MA: I disagree that things were just as entertaining this time. Like you, I also enjoyed the characters the first time, and was more than happy to revisit them in the sequel, but I have two problems with both Kick-Ass and Hit Girl this time around. The first is they’re simply not in the movie enough. I wanted more Kick-Ass and more Hit Girl, but their screen time is reduced as they share the screen with other characters who aren’t as interesting as they are.
Plus, they both get stuck in storylines that I could care less about. Did I really want to follow Hit Girl’s story of trying to fit in at high school, or how she made a promise to her deceased dad to listen to her guardian Detective Marcus Williams which means she can’t be Hit Girl any longer? Not really. Don’t get me wrong. The story makes sense. She should try to live the life of a normal teenager rather than be out there fighting crime, but I thought the movie spent too much time on this story line and not enough on what Hit Girl does best, which is fight crime.
LS: Well, I’d have to agree with that. I would have preferred to see a lot more of Hit Girl in action.
MA: The same can be said for Kick Ass, as his subplot involves his relationship with his father, and a lot of screen time is spent on this story as well, which honestly, isn’t all that interesting.
(Door opens and a masked cheerleader enters. She’s holding fiery pom-poms.)
CRUNKMAN: Who are you?
CHEERLEADER: I’m Teen Bitch! And my superpower is I hurl these pom-poms at people and they explode on contact.
MA: Nah, your name is too derivative. Come back again later with something more original.
(TEEN BITCH pouts and exits.)
LS: That was harsh. I liked those exploding pom-poms. We could have at least given her a tryout.
Anyway back to the review of KICK-ASS 2. My favorite character is still Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl.
MA: I absolutely agree.
LS: She’s older now, so it’s not as shocking to hear her swear non-stop, but she’s still a compelling character, especially as she tries to fit in with the popular girls at school, and finally notices boys.
MA: You raise a good point. One of the “charms” of Hit Girl in the first movie was she was this twelve year-old kid who could beat the crap out of thugs and she swore like a sailor, which was as shocking as it was hilarious. She had an edge to her in that first movie that really drove that film along.
I didn’t find her quite as edgy this time around, and I wonder if it’s because she’s older. Now, the character is still young in this film, fifteen, but she just wasn’t quite the same this time now that she was a little bit older.
That’s not to say I think the character of Hit Girl has worn out her welcome. I’m not saying that at all. I would have liked more scenes with Hit Girl in this film dealing with thugs rather than with high school bullies. In terms of developing her character, the plot of this movie doesn’t do Hit Girl any favors.
LS: I don’t know, I didn’t mind the scenes where she tries to fit in in high school as much as you did. I liked this other side of Hit Girl (and it almost seemed like a warm-up for another upcoming movie with Chloe Moretz as a high school girl – the remake of CARRIE).
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still good as Kick-Ass, although I have to admit, I enjoyed his performance in SAVAGES (2012) a little better. In a weird way, I thought he outgrew this role even more than Chloe outgrew hers.
MA: I agree. I liked Taylor-Johnson better in SAVAGES, too, although he’s still very good as Kick-Ass. Again, I wasn’t crazy about the scenes with him and his father, but I did enjoy his scenes with Night Bitch a lot, and wish there had been even more of them. They shared some nice chemistry.
LS: I wanted a lot more of Night Bitch!
And Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin!) wasn’t my favorite thing about the first movie, but he’s a little more entertaining here, as his character seems to have gone completely insane.
MA: I thought Christopher Mintz-Plasse wore out his welcome. I found him much more annoying here than I did in the first movie, and that’s one of the weaknesses of KICK-ASS 2. It doesn’t have a strong central villain. KICK-ASS, you remember, had Mark Strong as the main baddie, crime boss, Frank D’Amico, and Strong, as he usually is, was excellent in the role. He was a dominant villainous force in that movie, and the scene where he tangles with Hit Girl is one of the original film’s highlights.
In KICK-ASS 2, Mintz-Plasse is just a whiny teen with lots of money to throw around. He’s more annoying than he is deadly. He’s not much of a villain.
LS: You’re right, in the first one, his father was as much as a villain as he was, and in this one, Mintz-Plasse takes center stage, and it isn’t as effective. I guess that’s why he surrounds himself with so many other characters. But I still found him less annoying in this movie for some reason. I guess I just like The Mother-F***er better than I liked the lame Red Mist. In the first movie, he just seemed silly and useless. Here, he seems silly and completely bonkers.
The formula of the first movie – mixing over the top humor and violence with sometimes serious subject matter – worked for me again in this one. Some of it may seem a bit mean-spirited, but that’s actually how it’s meant to be. In many ways, these films are a parody of the more mainstream superhero movies, and the KICK-ASS movies love to poke fun at comic book archetypes, even if they are kind poking with a switchblade.
MA: I found less of that poking fun in KICK-ASS 2. In fact, I thought it tried to slip in some positive messages about how real people shouldn’t be superheroes, and that the true heroes in life are the police and first responders. While I agree with this, I thought it took away from the edginess and the parody which worked so well in the first movie.
LS: I agree with that a bit. And I agree that the “message” was a bit preachy. I hate that! But they didn’t spend much time on that, so it was easy to overlook it.
I really missed Nicolas Cage here, since his character died in the first movie. But I actually really liked Jim Carrey here as Sgt. Stars and Stripes. I just wish he had been in the movie more. But it’s ironic that Carrey came out against the movie in the press for being too violent, and then his character is one of the more poignant ones here.
MA: I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I missed Nicholas Cage too. I really enjoyed his performance as Big Daddy in KICK-ASS.
(BIG DADDY crashes through a skylight and lands next to the group.)
BIG DADDY: If— I had— survived—I would have— kicked ass— once again —in the second movie.
LS: If you’re dead, what the hell are you doing here? No offense. It’s good to see you and all, and you look great for a dead guy.
BIG DADDY: I’m now—undead.
(The group all nod their heads.)
MA: Undead Big Daddy. Interesting.
CRUNKMAN: Okay, Undead Big Daddy, you stand over there and sign our superhero agreement, and you’re in.
BIG DADDY: Undead— Big Daddy— works— on his own— but— I’ll stay for the snacks.
CRUNKMAN (shrugs): Okay.
MA: I also liked Carrey here as Sgt. Stars and Stripes and agree that he should have been in the movie more. His character deserved a better fate.
LS: I found him to be one of the more compelling characters in this one. He deserved more screen time and more development. They just don’t use him enough. He’s also a real badass, where most of the other characters are wannabes.
I’m scratching my head over Carrey’s comments about the violence in this movie. I didn’t find it any more violent than the first one, nor more violent than other R-rated action movies of its type. And if you’re going to be involved in a KICK-ASS movie, you gotta know what you’re in for, based on the formula of the first movie.
LS: I always think it’s really odd when actors make a big stand about movie violence. It seems really hypocritical. If they have an issue with violence and guns, then don’t take these kinds of roles. I’m sure there are producers begging to do a new Jim Carrey comedy. If you have an issue with KICK-ASS movies, then don’t be in one. It’s not like he was desperate for the paycheck.
I also liked Garrett M. Brown, who reprises his role as Kick-Ass’s father, even though I found him as annoying as he was endearing, if that makes sense. He was kind of a loveable lug. And Olga Kurkalina was pretty amazing as the coolest of D’Amico’s bad guys, Mother Russia.
MA: Yes, Mother Russia was the most impressive villain in the movie, and her battle with Hit Girl near the end was certainly one of the best scenes in the movie. It was probably my favorite scene, this clash between two unstoppable forces.
LS: Yes! That final showdown was definitely one of the movie’s big highlights. In theory, the two of them seem really mismatched. One is a hulking beast and one is a little girl with martial arts skills. But I thought the movie really made it work and made it a believable battle. It also made me like Hit Girl even more. That girl has heart!
MA: And then, in the same scene, you have Kick-Ass squaring off against Mother-F***r, which sadly, is nowhere near as interesting since Kick-Ass can pretty much wipe his own butt with Mother-F***er’s costume. Did I say the film needed a better villain?
LS: I also really liked Libby Booth as “Night Bitch,” the superhero who dresses slutty and get involved with Kick-Ass at one point.
MA: I agree. I liked Libby Booth as “Night Bitch” a lot. She was one of my favorite new characters in the sequel, but she’s not in it enough.
LS: Yeah, the best new characters were Sgt. Stars and Stripes, Mother Russia and Night Bitch. But Night Bitch was by far the sexiest! I wanted a lot more of her!
One gripe I had with the movie is that it wants to be more realistic (the high school stuff) and at the same time is more over-the-top. It can’t be both. For example, Mother Russia kills a bunch of cops in one scene. It’s a pretty vicious scene. In real life, the rest of the police force would be storming the city, desperate to take her down. And yet, we hardly see any other police officers in the movie after that. There is no way she would have just gotten away with that.
MA: Yep. That was careless storytelling.
LS: Also, I didn’t really like that Dave’s high school friends got into the act as being superheroes. When Kick-Ass joins that superteam, one of the members is a guy called Battle Guy, who is pretty much a joke. He’s also really Dave’s friend Marty from school. Later, their friend Todd feels left out and wants to be a superhero, too. I know one of the points here is that anyone thinks they can put on a costume and be a superhero, but the truth is, Dave trained extensively for it, and still gets his ass kicked on occasion. Marty and Todd – by all rights – should be killed off the first time they try to get into action. They’re totally unprepared for actual combat, and they’re pretty pathetic. Somehow, Battle Guy does okay in a combat situation, which I found to be totally unbelievable. The guy’s a fat nerd.
MA: Maybe his superpower should have been that he sat on people. Yeah, the stuff with Marty and Todd was just plain silly and didn’t add anything to the movie.
LS: And the whole storyline with Detective Williams trying to fill in for Hit Girl’s father and constantly telling her not to go out and fight crime got kind of tiresome after a while. Chestnut just came off as a one-note character with no real depth.
So it’s far from being a perfect movie. But it is a fun one. Let’s be honest, though. KICK-ASS 2 is definitely not going to appeal to everyone. There are going to be people who would totally hate this movie. And it does have a bit of a mean streak at times. But if you liked the first one, chances are you’re going to enjoy this one a lot. I know I did. I give KICK-ASS 2, three knives.
What did you think of it, Michael?
MA: I liked it less than you, as to me, it fell into the trap that most sequels fall into: the story’s not as good as the original, the characters aren’t as fresh, and the movie as a whole just isn’t done as well as the first one.
Let’s start with the story. I just didn’t find it worked as well as the original. The screenplay by writer/director Jeff Wadlow goes down roads that simply don’t make for the best story material. Huge chunks of time are spent on Hit Girl’s plight of trying to fit in in high school, and trying to live up to the expectations of her new guardian. Now, this story makes sense, but too much time is spent on it, and it takes away from scenes that we really want to see, which is Hit Girl fighting crime.
LS: I agree. It takes up too much of the movie.
MA: The same can be said of Kick-Ass’s back story with his dad. It’s okay, but it’s not all that interesting. I would have preferred more scenes with Kick-Ass and Night Bitch. I liked these two together, and yet we don’t see them together all that much.
LS: Like I said, I had a mixed reaction to Kick-Ass’s dad. The character had heart, but he was also kind of an idiot, but what eventually happens to him makes sense and moves the plot along. Fortunately, I didn’t think the scenes with the Dad took up too much screen time, so I could live with it.
But, as for Night Bitch, I would have enjoyed it if she played a much larger role in the movie.
MA: And the main plot about Mother-F***r assembling an army of villains to take out Kick-Ass and bring down the city I found boring. Mother-F***r is just a big cry baby.
LS: I think he’s supposed to be. I found him less annoying as you did. And I liked his army of evil, even if they were pretty one-dimensional for the most part.
MA: Kick-Ass and Hit Girl deserve a better story, pure and simple.
LS: While I was okay with what we got, it could have been better. So I agree with that, too. And that’s also why I didn’t give this movie a higher score.
MA: The characters aren’t fleshed out either. As much as I like Kick-Ass and Hit Girl, I didn’t really learn anything new about them from this movie. I liked new characters Night Bitch and Sgt. Stars and Stripes, but the rest of the new superhero clan are forgettable.
I’ve already told you what I think about Mother-F***r, and while I liked Mother Russia a lot, she’s more of a henchman than a main villain, an Odd Job not a Goldfinger, and the rest of the villains in this one are also forgettable.
And for a movie that is selling the message that the police are the real heroes, it does a lousy job with the main police character in the film, Hit Girl’s guardian, Detective Marcus Williams. Do we ever see Williams do any real police work in this movie? I think we see him driving his police car, that’s it. So, the message rings hollow since there aren’t any decent police characters in the movie.
LS: And I still say the police force would have stopped at nothing to bring Mother Russia to justice after she kills a bunch of cops – in broad daylight. At that point in the movie, it would have just been the police vs. the army of villains, and Kick-Ass would not even have gotten a chance to face off with his nemesis. Instead, in the actual movie, it’s like the city doesn’t have a police force for most of the time, except for that one scene.
MA: That’s what I mean about the lack of a police presence in the movie. Had there been a main character on the police force, Detective Marcus, for example, and he was involved in going after Mother Russia and the other villains, that would have added to the intensity of the film. Instead, the police presence is ignored, which comes off as totally unbelievable.
And I have to say, I wasn’t all that impressed with the way this one was filmed. No offense to writer/director Jeff Wadlow, but the original KICK-ASS was written and directed by Matthew Vaughn, the same guy who wrote and directed X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011) another excellent movie.
Here, I thought some of the scenes weren’t as effective as they could have been. There’s a chase scene, for example, which we saw snippets of in the film’s trailer, where Hit Girl is atop of a speeding van trying to rescue Kick-Ass who’s held hostage inside the van by armed goons. This should be a phenomenal scene, but there was just something about it that was lacking. I’m not sure if it was the way it was edited or what, but it just didn’t thrill me all that much, visually, that is.
I did like the bout between Hit Girl and Mother Russia. That was a great scene, but the rest of the film, in terms of cool scenes, I thought fell flat
But like you, I loved the first movie, and I really like the characters of Kick-Ass and Hit Girl, and I’d have no problem seeing more movies featuring these two, but I’d like them to be in better movies, that’s all. I’m not saying keep away from this one, because these two characters are definitely worth watching, and so I think if you liked the first movie you’ll like this one, only not as much, because KICK-ASS 2 is nowhere near as good as KICK-ASS. It’s several notches below it in terms of quality.
But it’s still a fun movie.
I give it two knives.
LS: Despite its flaws, I found the new movie enjoyable and wasn’t bored for a minute. So I definitely liked it more than you did.
MA: Okay, I’ve solved our sidekick problem. I think our entire group should be called the Knife Fighters, you know, like the Avengers or the X-Men, and you and I should have our own names. Like, I’ll be Dr. Spooklight. And you’ll be something like Knife Maniac or Knife Rage or Throat Cut.
LS: Nah. I like Knife Fighter and Little Blade just fine.
MA: Little Blade? Why, you bastard! That’s even worse than Knife Boy!
(LS & MA start fighting.)
CRUNKMAN: Stop it! You guys are worse than the Avengers! (LS & MA ignore him and keep fighting, throwing knives at each other and anything else they can get their hands on.)
Stop! You’re ruining our new headquarters! Take it outside!
(LS & MA crash through a window, still fighting.)
THE CRABLEG: Well, I guess it’s up to us to wish everyone well, since they’re outside kicking the crap out of each other.
CRUNKMAN: So long everybody! I’m sure those two knife fighters out there will be back next week with a review of another new movie. (A bloodied brick crashes through the window.)….Hopefully.
© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares and Michael Arruda
L.L. Soares gives KICK-ASS 2 ~ three knives!
Michael Arruda gives KICK-ASS 2 ~two knives.