Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kick-Ass 2

KICK-ASS 2 (Jeff Wadlow, 2013)

In KICK-ASS 2 a member of the supervillain’s posse slaughters a bunch of New York City policemen with increasingly violent methods for comedic effect.  Granted, the perpetrator is on the side of all that is bad, but the scene is undoubtedly meant to be funny.  Clearly we’re well past the time of post-9/11 sensitivity when The Strokes pulled a song from their debut album because of a third-person observation in the chorus about the NYC cops not being very smart.  That’s not to say that the men and women in blue get a lifetime pass for how they’re presented in art, but in this particular context, the glee with which they’re murdered and the positive audience identification with the killer is troublesome, to say the least.

KICK-ASS 2 doesn’t put forth mixed messages so much as it extols vigilanteism and revenge and then, after the climactic battle, tries to paper over the ugly sentiments with lip service about proper conduct.  Lest there be any uncertainty about where the film stands in its conflicting statements, the pretense of responsibility is ripped away in the final scene.  KICK-ASS 2 warns to do as it says, not as it does.  Then it distributes firearms, body armor, and a costume with an encouraging slap on the back.  

The sequel picks up with high school senior Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) having hung up his superhero uniform, but he can’t resist playing the hero again when he sees ordinary citizens following in the trail he blazed as Kick-Ass.  He begins getting back into crime-fighting shape under the rigorous training of freshman Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz), otherwise known as Hit-Girl, with the intention of them becoming a dynamic duo.  Plans for their alliance come to an end when her guardian, Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut), insists that she devote her after school activities to traditional socializing rather than meting out street justice.

While Mindy struggles to fit into the in crowd, Dave finds a group of like-minded civilians who want to join forces to clean up the Big Apple.  Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), a former mob enforcer turned born-again Christian with little tolerance for foul language, leads their so-called community service efforts.  Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) still seethes over Kick-Ass blasting his criminal father with a bazooka, so when he notices that Kick-Ass has resurfaced, he dons his mother’s fetish gear and dubs himself with an Oedipal, family publication-unfriendly name to refashion himself as the first supervillain with an accompanying crew of brutes.

Like its deluded, self-professed champions of public safety, KICK-ASS 2 fancies itself as something more admirable than it is.  How unsurprising for a film that stages a rape scene that uses framing and editing to empathize with the attacker even though the moment is ultimately played for laughs at his expense.  Rather than initiating a subversive conversation on superheroes and those who wish they could become them, KICK-ASS 2 indulges the worst power fantasies while also getting off on sociopathic behavior.

Grade: D+

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