Friday, August 29, 2014

‘Kick-Ass 2′: Still bustin’ skulls

From page A9 | August 16, 2013 |

“Kick-Ass 2″

3.5 stars

Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut, John Leguizamo, Donald Faison, Lindy Booth

Rating: R, for profanity, brief nudity, crude sexuality, plenty of violence and buckets of blood

Wannabe superheroes are back for more slice-and-dice mayhem

By Derrick Bang
Enterprise film critic

Sequels are de rigueur in the comic book world, even when the material doesn’t necessarily demand subsequent chapters.

I’m pretty sure writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr. never expected 2008’s “Kick-Ass” to be more than an eight-issue miniseries, although Millar did leave himself an out, with the aggrieved young snot Red Mist demanding revenge in the final panel, following his evil father’s quite fitting death.

But the original series became a smash success, and director Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 film adaptation — which he co-scripted, with Jane Goldman — was one of that summer’s biggest surprises: a gleefully violent guilty pleasure that delivered the right blend of snarky humor and gory mayhem.

No surprise, then, that director/scripter Jeff Wadlow has unleashed a big-screen sequel.

Wadlow  bases his script on elements from Millar’s subsequent “Kick-Ass 2” and “Hit-Girl” comic miniseries, opening as our two triumphant heroes — Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) — attempt to resume normal lives. For Dave, that means hanging out with best friends Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Augustus Prew), or watching TV at home with his father (Garrett M. Brown).

But Dave is the lucky one; he has a normal life. Poor Mindy knows nothing beyond the battle training developed during years under her late father’s guidance: a reprehensible upbringing that her new guardian, police detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) demands that she set aside in order to “enjoy” the calmer routine of life as a high school freshman.

Obviously, Marcus has forgotten his own younger days. Mindy’s previous bouts with gun-toting thugs are nothing compared to the contemptuous belittling she endures at the hands of queen bee/varsity dance captain Brooke (Claudia Lee) and her apprentice bee-yatches.

Perhaps a quick recap is due, at this point. Dave and Mindy exist in a world very much like our own, albeit one that posits the irresistible notion that a few altruistic individuals, weaned on comic books, don homemade costumes and embark on ill-advised amateur crime-fighting careers. In one corner of this unspecified metropolis, Mindy and her father, as Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, took on drug baron Frank D’Amico; Dave, initially operating elsewhere, soon joined them as Kick-Ass.

But the genius of Millar’s creation is that this obviously satiric premise, which the first film milked for plenty of snarky humor, is offset by real-world consequences. People die, and quite horribly; Dave nearly got killed himself, before developing reasonable physical skills. And bad things happened to good people, before Dave and Mindy finally prevailed against D’Amico, whose son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) had remade himself as Red Mist, in order to lure our heroes into a trap.

And, so, the lines are drawn in this big-screen sequel. Dave, suffering adrenalin withdrawal, allies himself with a gaggle of copycat “heroes” who’ve banded together as a group dubbed Justice Forever, led by Col. Stars and Stripes (a gravel-voiced Jim Carrey). But try as he might, Dave cannot get Mindy to break a promise she made to Marcus, that she discard Hit-Girl’s purple wig and skin-tight uniform.

The seething Chris D’Amico, however, isn’t willing to call it quits. Assembling his own crew of “super villains,” he embarks on a highly visible campaign of death and destruction, hoping to lure Kick-Ass out of hiding. Actually, the not-terribly-bright Chris — who has re-christened his evil self under a name that cannot be mentioned in a family newspaper — has only one truly formidable ally, and she’s quite a scary monster. That would be Mother Russia, played to the ferocious hilt by Ukraine bodybuilder Olga Kurkulina.

This exaggerated nonsense is grounded, in great part, by Moretz’s persuasive performance as Mindy/Hit-Girl: still one of the most iconic young female characters ever brought to the big screen. On the one hand, Moretz’s Hit-Girl is a glibly profane, trash-talking force of nature, incredibly adept with her razor-edged swords and gymnastic grace; alternatively, she’s equally credible as the vulnerable Mindy, so easily cowed by her school’s Mean Girl pack.

At a particularly humiliating moment, our hearts simply break for poor Mindy; Moretz knows how to work the tremulous lips and shattered expression.

Taylor-Johnson is fine, as well, as the far more “ordinary” Dave Lizewski (if the term even applies, in such circumstances). Dave’s biggest weakness remains a gullible tendency to be too trusting, too impulsive, and Taylor-Johnson continues to be a well-cast — and well-played — personification of this equally unlikely character.

Carrey is hilariously gruff as the oddly formal Col. Stars and Stripes, who thinks nothing of beating goons to a pulp, but draws the line at taking the Lord’s name in vain. Of the various Justice Forever members, Donald Faison stands out as the hilariously named Dr. Gravity — whose “gravity weapon” is merely a dressed-up baseball bat — and Lindy Booth delivers plenty of perky charm as the scantily clad Night Bitch.

Mintz-Plasse is sputteringly over the top as the ineffectual Chris D’Amico: a numbnuts clown with few actual skills, who compensates by attempting to buy his way to evil success, with his late father’s ill-gotten gains. In a similar vein, we briefly meet Chris’ incarcerated Uncle Ralph, chillingly played by Iain Glen, a familiar face from HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Chestnut is the epitome of parental concern as Marcus, and John Leguizamo strikes a similarly sympathetic note as Javier, the one calming influence in Chris’ increasingly unhinged life.

Wadlow comes to us from low-rent teen efforts such as 2005’s “Cry Wolf” and 2008’s “Never Back Down,” neither of which set the world on fire. But he definitely understands the tone needed for this project, and he deftly handles the necessary blend of arch comedy and limb-severing carnage. You’ll love this film’s all-stops-out money sequence, superbly orchestrated by stunt coordinator James O’Dee, which takes place within and atop a speeding delivery van.

On the other hand, Wadlow isn’t quite as methodical when it comes to maintaining his plot threads. Mindy demonstrates superb chops while trying out for her school’s cheerleading squad, but then nothing comes of this, aside from making an enemy of Brooke. And Mindy’s eventual “revenge” against Brooke and her fellow mean girls is atrociously dumb: a disgusting slapstick sequence better suited to “Bridesmaids” and its many imitators.

Worse yet, Todd’s ill-advised behavior, while trying to “fit in” with Dave’s newly revealed second life, feels half-baked and wholly unbelievable.

So no, while this sequel remains a lot of fun — and is certain to please genre addicts — it’s neither as fresh nor as dementedly Out There as its predecessor. That said, this one definitely leaves room for another sequel … and I’m certainly ready to see where Moretz’s Mindy Macready might go, from here.

— Read more of Derrick Bang’s film criticism at Comment on this review at





Saving Putah Creek: a quiet concert at sunset

By Elizabeth Case | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Mr. Dolcini goes to Washington

By Tanya Perez | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Winton to be feted for her many years of community work

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Davis Innovation Center team fields questions

By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

Researchers solve mystery of Death Valley’s moving rocks

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

California extends review of $25B delta plan

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Assembly approves statewide ban on plastic bags

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Need a new best friend?

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Equestrian eventing competition slated

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Dinner, auction benefit Yolo County CASA

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Forum explores local mental health services

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Solar-cooking workshop set at Food Co-op

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Celebrate the Senior Center at Sept. 9 luncheon

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

Tee off for Davis’ continued prosperity

By Lily Holmes | From Page: A4

Kids can sign up for a library card and get a free book

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Explorit Science Center: Volunteers supercharge summer camp

By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4 | Gallery

Free blood pressure screenings offered

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Bodega Marine Laboratory hosts open house

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

Local group charts a year’s worth of beauty in flowers

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A5

Name Droppers: UCD honors two of its own

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6

Books, conversation and poetry at Logos

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7



What if we need MRAP?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

How could tank be helpful?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

Tom Meyer cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: C2

Don’t sentence our police to death

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: C2, 1 Comment

Will Davis see river water?

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

Let’s sell the MRAP on eBay

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

Seeing both sides of ‘tank’

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: C2

Travel buddy is getting too fat

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5



Devils scrimmage with Sac

By Wayne Tilcock | From Page: B1 | Gallery

UCD-Stanford: the clock is down to counting the minutes

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Forget the score; focus on the energy brought by Aggies

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

Returning seniors, new faces lead promising DHS links squad

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devil golfers return from Scotland with smiles on their faces

By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Wire briefs: Aces cruise past Cats at Raley

By Wire and staff reports | From Page: B6

Sports briefs: DHS girls fall by the slimmest of net margins

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B6 | Gallery





‘The November Man’: Who can be trusted?

By Derrick Bang | From Page: A9 | Gallery

B Street’s ‘The Ladies Foursome’ is aces

By Bev Sykes | From Page: A9 | Gallery



Technology makes a great car better

By Ali Arsham | From Page: C1 | Gallery



Margarita Elizondo

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Elaine Dracia Greenberg

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4