Friday, 30 August 2013

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Kick-Ass 2 doesn't measure up to the inspired genius and lunacy of its predecessor but it's still great fun

Despite its unwitting fetishisation of vigilantism and celebration of violence, the creepiness of its foul-mouth sweet prepubescent lead, despite its confused veering between parody and celebration of the übermenschen narrative as wish-fulfilment for the dispossessed, Kick-Ass was a great action comedy. Like all great comedies, it worked because it had a great gimmick and a greater twist. There, the gimmick was “What if costumed heroes exist in the real world?” and the twist was “What if the world is normal and it’s the costumed heroes who are fucked up?” It also helped that its hyper-stylistic Asian action choreography made the gory violence so over-the-top, it superseded the conventions of taste and became a piece of cinematic art in its own right.

Kick-Ass 2 may come from the same source material as its predecessor yet under the hands of Jeff Wadlow, the film drops the twist and takes on an un-ironic conventionality about the heroic journey that the original film attempted to subvert or at least run away from.

Aaron Johnson reprises his role as David/Kick-Ass, who now joins a real-world Justice League. The problem is how this is played as a straight-up superhero team story (involving a final showdown with the villain), ditching the twist concept in the original source material. Despite all indications that Jim Carrey’s “Captain Stars and Stripes” is just about as much a psychopath as Nicolas Cage’s “Big Daddy”, or how his compadres seem to be even more incompetent and banal as the Kick-Ass hero, the film does not make a point of developing along these lines.

In Chloe Morentz’s storyline, the now-orphaned tyke makes a solemn promise to end her crime-fighting ways and to lead a normal life. Now this storyline has more promise that the A-plot, simply because even in normal life (or a film approximation of it), school’s a bitch when mean girls and queen bees abound, while the pressure to conform or be popular or notorious cannot be ignored. What happens when you put a classic superhero into the real world? How will a classic superhero, without using superhero violence or gadgets, fend off real world villains? How Wadlow settles this gimmick and twist reveals how much he really understands about Kick-Ass.

Aside from the precociousness and unbearable cuteness of Moretz as a human Rabbit of Caerbannog, what does make Kick-Ass 2 tick is Christopher Mintz-Passe, who plays his costumed villain as an ordinary petulant teenager with delusions of grandeur, but at the same time so politically-incorrect, racist, misogynistic, it’s a wonder when he manages to pose a threat to the real-world Justice League and create silly, offensive mayhem. However, it is Olga Kurkulina who steals every scene she's in as Mother Russia, the all-round tank for Team Evil.

With the gimmick and twist concept poorly executed here and only working one-third of the time, and a blander visual approach to screen violence, Kick-Ass 2 is a sequel that makes the grade but could be much better.

No comments: