Aaron Taylor-Johnson (left) stars as a comic book nerd-turned-superhero who squares off against foe The Motherf—er (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) in <em>Kick-Ass 2</em>.

There are two profoundly compelling characters at the heart of Kick-Ass 2. Unfortunately neither is the title character, Kick-Ass. By rights, this film belongs to its acid-tongued antihero adolescent assassin Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) and its villain, poor-little-rich-boy sociopath Chris D’Amico/The Motherf—er (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Were that these two got the title billing they deserve.

Like the original, the sequel follows teenage fanboy Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who moonlights in a wetsuit as masked vigilante Kick-Ass, a superhero without superpowers. In Kick-Ass 2, we see a post-Kick-Ass world in which donning a mask and defending justice has become the new planking and twerking, a social-media spawned viral phenomenon for the Comic-Con crowd. Kick-Ass falls in with “Justice Forever,” a vigilante team led by mobster-turned-evangelical Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey). Kick-Ass pleads with Hit-Girl to join forces with Justice Forever, but Hit-Girl’s embraced civilian life, currying favor with her high school’s Queen Bee and sycophantic drones. Hit-Girl comes to Kick-Ass’ aid only when Justice Forever is razed to the ground by The Motherf—er, whose sole goal is to kill Kick Ass.

Well-paced and intermittently witty as it is, Kick-Ass 2 is a movie that doesn’t understand its strengths. Its lead practically sleepwalks through the film while his sidekick and villain both make the celluloid crackle. The film beats us over the head with its done-to-death theme of “Who are you, your civilian alter ego or your superhero?” while all but ignoring the far more fascinating machinations at play. Over the course of both films, Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, and the Motherf—er are orphaned (to be a father, or even a father figure, is to have a death wish in the Kick-Ass-verse). The film that consciously explores child heroes and villains robbed of their childhoods, the film that dives straight into the black holes this one leaves in the psyches of our leads, that’s the film Kick-Ass 2 could have been.


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