[Screen It]


(2013) (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz) (R)

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Action: In modern-day New York, regular people dress as superheroes and super villains and eventually do battle.
Dave Lizewski (AARON TAYLOR-JOHNSON) is itching to return to the streets as his superhero alter-ego, Kick-Ass. So much so, that he asks Mindy Macready, a.k.a. Hit Girl (CHLOE GRACE MORETZ), to train him in all of the martial arts and weapons skills that her late father taught her growing up. But Mindy is torn between her vigilante past and her growing interest in living a normal life as a teenage high school student. She ultimately makes a promise to her surrogate father, Marcus (MORRIS CHESTNUT), to never go back to the costume and the danger.

As a result, Kick-Ass joins up with a motley crew of other normal everyday people who were inspired by his exploits in the first movie to become costumed superheroes too. The group, known as Justice Forever, is lead by Colonel Stars and Stripes (JIM CARREY) and includes Battle Guy (CLARK DUKE), who is really Dave's classmate Marty; Dr. Gravity (DONALD FAISON), who carries a tricked-out baseball bat; Night Bitch (LINDY BOOTH), a sexy masked heroine out to honor her murdered sister; Insect Man (ROBERT EMMS), a gay man who is out and proud and doesn't wear a mask; and Tommy's Dad (STEVEN MACKINTOSH) and Tommy's Mom (MONICA DOLAN), two parents who have lost their son and want to help others in need.

They are eventually challenged by Chris D'Amico (CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE), the son of the mobster Kick-Ass killed in the first film. Chris tried to be a superhero, but now finds it more rewarding to be a super-villain. With the help of a former associate of his father's named Javier (JOHN LEGUIZAMO), he rechristens himself "The Mother-F*cker" and recruits an army of other villains including the hulking Mother Russia (OLGA KURKULINA) to hunt Kick-Ass and the other heroes down and exact his revenge.

OUR TAKE: 6.5 out of 10
I remember when I reviewed the original "Kick-Ass" a couple of years back for a separate publication. Some readers wrote me and said, "How could I give a positive review to such a vile, violent, and disgusting film in which a 12-year-old girl is raised from birth to be a glorified assassin, who swears and kills people with glee." They even went the whole, "What kind of message are you sending to YOUR daughter?!" route, knowing at the time I had a 5-year-old little girl.

My response was simple. "Kick-Ass" was a work of violent fantasy. And if my daughter does indeed grow up to be a masked vigilante, skilled with guns and blades and martial arts, who kills multiple mobsters all while hurling profane insults at them and all by the time she is a teenager … I think it's safe to say I took my hands off the wheel as a dad somewhere between that review of "Kick-Ass" and, oh, about the time she entered middle school.

The purpose of the Our Take portion of content reviews is mainly to determine whether each film works on its own terms. The first "Kick-Ass" did work as an example of extreme cinema, and I think the sequel maintains a lot of what worked in that first film. It continues and deepens the core story of Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a suburban New York teenager who dons the mask and costume of his superhero alter ego Kick-Ass to inspire others to not be afraid in his increasingly corrupt world.

As the film opens, he is being trained by Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), a.k.a. Hit Girl, who is now being raised by her slain father's former police partner Marcus (Morris Chestnut). Marcus tries his best to get Mindy to be a normal teenage girl interested in boys, boy bands, and schoolwork. But her inner Hit Girl continues to hear the call of the streets. She remains torn between trying to live a normal life and living up to the legacy of her father, "Big Daddy," a Batman-like anti-hero who was slain in the first film.

At the same time, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is now out on Long Island and is obsessed with getting revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his mob boss father in the first film. He has inherited all of his dad's wealth and his criminal connections. After having tried to be a superhero in the first film, the nerdy Chris refashions himself a super villain and gives himself the name "The Mother-F*cker" and begins to assemble an army of other villains to wreak havoc on New York and kill Kick-Ass and his growing group of heroes.

The hardest part about liking these "Kick-Ass" films are the wild shifts in tone throughout. Both films are not light on their feet. They go from broad comedy to hard-core violence within scenes. So, the audience alternates between laughing and wincing. As in the first film, what overcomes this imbalance is the game and likable cast. The three main actors really inhabit these roles and are as entertaining as they were in the first film. This time around, they are joined by Jim Carrey doing actual character work here as the born-again Colonel Stars and Stripes and Lindy Booth as the sexy Night Bitch, who takes a liking to Kick-Ass amid their vigilante sprees.

And there is still Hit Girl, who I think is one of the great action-movie inventions of the last decade. She has that old, tired character arc of being the reluctant superhero who doesn't know if she/he wants to don the mask and cape anymore and instead live a "normal life." Almost all superhero movies now have this subplot. And normally it's just a waste of time, a lot of wheel-spinning until the inevitable moment where the costume goes back on and the fun bad-guy butt kicking can resume.

In "Kick-Ass 2," the filmmakers make this clichéd subplot work better than any other I've seen by plopping Mindy/Hit Girl down into a "Heathers"-like clique of mean girls and watching her deal with these snobs. Initially, she is intrigued by their hair and makeup and clothes. She even gets weird stirrings inside when they show her a music video of the latest boy band a la One Direction or Big Time Rush. But Hit Girl just can't stop being Hit Girl.

And I can't stop being me. I like a good R-rated action flick with a sense of humor. I especially like the fight scenes in this, too. There is very little CGI. And the fight choreography is crisp and clear with not a lot of awful "Bourne" movie, Paul Greengrass-like jump cuts and hand-held blurs. The movie is undeniably clunky and self-consciously extreme. But it's also very entertaining for those open to the experience. I give it a 6.5 out of 10. (T. Durgin)

Reviewed August 13, 2013 / Posted August 16, 2013

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