Curiously nerdy posts.
Yes, I know that in the world of cinema-goers, this review is absurdly late. But considering after a walk around the internet, I quickly discovered that my opinions on this movie are among the minority. With that in mind, I decided it merited writing about anyway.
I didn’t go see this movie on the opening weekend for a reason similar to why I’m sure many others didn’t… the bad reviews. It was only after my girlfriend went and saw it with some friends, and came back to tell me she really liked it, that I decided that I’d go watch it, regardless of the bad press.
That being said, I loved the original Kick Ass. I thought its take on the superhero genre was refreshing in its brutality. What would happen if some kid decided to put on a brightly colored costume, and go and stop muggers from robbing people? He’d get stabbed, and end up in the hospital. And that’s if he’s lucky. What would happen to a guy dressing up in combat armor and taking on the mob? He’s probably going to die in truly grisly fashion, no matter how well trained and equipped he is. And the original movie didn’t pull any punches whatsoever in showing these lessons. The violence was shocking, but just over the top enough to maintain the sense of irreverent humor without looking like it was written and directed by sociopaths.
For the most part, a lot of people liked the first one. Where did the sequel go wrong? Let’s think it through.
You know how in most story arcs in movies, where when a hero comes out of retirement, he has to have a dramatic/traumatic event happen to him that motivates him to come back and dispense justice upon the bad guys, and only after everyone he knows tries to coax him out by less extreme means first? Or how a villain has to have a specific reason to emerge and become a threat to society?
Well, this movie scoffs at such notions, and just fast forwards through those elements known as character motivations and character development. It prefers to cut to the good stuff. And you know, even though it was jarring at first, the decision kind of worked. A movie called Kick Ass 2 is never going to star Anthony Hopkins and Helen Mirren dealing with growing old in a quaint British town, and win Oscars. A movie with a title so brash should cut straight to the violence; anything less, and it doesn’t feel true to itself.
In the movie’s defense, Chris D’Amico has a clear motivation to be a villain here… he lost his dad, however scumbaggy his dad was, and wants revenge on Kick Ass. His first several lines of dialogue serve as a refresher for his plot points in the original movie, so at least they didn’t completely ignore his reasons. However….
In the case of the titular character, however, it’s more of a pronounced flaw. The catalyst of the movie seems familiar: Teenage boy is bored and tired of his everyday life, so he decides to put on a costume and fight crime. That’s probably because that’s exactly how the first movie began. And you know? That’d be okay, except for one thing. Apparently Kick Ass cameos in Groundhog Day, because his life unfolds the exact same way in the opening act in both movies.
In Kick Ass: Hero puts on suit, gets his ass kicked by random thugs. Gets bailed out by Big Daddy and Hit Girl.
In Kick Ass 2: Hero puts on suit, trains with skilled ally (complete with montage where he gets buff and even takes Hit Girl down a few times), still gets his ass kicked by random thugs. Gets bailed out by Hit Girl.
It’s like he has no recollection of anything he’s learned, or how he made it through the events of the first movie. A conversation about being afraid of death doesn’t make a lot of sense after you’ve almost been shot a hundred times and been involved in the operation of a rocket launcher. Just ended up feeling a bit hollow to me. It’s like his character stagnated. You want your character to grow, and learn from failures and triumphs, not be the exact same person through so many potentially traumatic scenes of violence.
To that end….
This is probably going to sound slightly crazy, but bear with me. I think one of the big issues Kick Ass 2 has/had, whether people want to admit it or not, is that it wasn’t violent enough.
Yeah. I said it. If you look at it objectively, this movie had its teeth kicked out compared to the original. Let’s do a quick rundown of the goriest and most potentially controversial violent scenes in this movie:
– Hit Girl stabs a guy in the foot, blood goes everywhere. Okay, yeah. This is up to standards. I cringed, but maybe because I’ve had multiple foot surgeries in the past.
– Hit Girl chops the same guy’s hand off. Yeah, shocking. But there wasn’t much gore this time. Luke Skywalker suffered the same injury in The Empire Strikes Back, and I don’t see anyone saying that movie is too violent.
– Mother Russia uses a lawnmower to murder a couple of cops. Ouch! Nasty image, yeah, but one that plays out better in your mind than on screen. All we see is a ridiculous amount of blood, like someone spilled a bunch of tropical punch in the car with them. Tons of horror movies have used a lot of blood to cover up the possibility of explicit gore. Not exactly a new technique, so I fail to see where this scene was TOO violent.
– Colonel Stars and Stripes’ has his dog chew on a criminal’s jewels. This joke felt like it belonged more in an old Ben Stiller comedy than a violent comic book movie.
– Colonel gets stabbed by a machete. Okay, this was a good one. But if you go into a rated R movie and get bent out of shape at a dude bleeding and holding his guts in, then you haven’t been to many movies of this type.
Bottom line: Less actual violence, a lot fewer people died. This movie is not as violent as the original. The original was well received, this one was not. Conclusion: It might have been better if it used more ultraviolence. Not a lot, but again, when your name is Kick Ass 2, err on the side of more ass kicking, not less.
I mean this metaphorically, as there is surprisingly little actual gunfire in this movie. In storytelling, there’s a saying: if you show the audience a gun, you BETTER have someone fire it at some point. Well, this movie fires all the guns it shows, from the adrenaline, to how Mother****er meets his eventual demise. The fact that the former is a plausible advantage to Hit Girl to beat the only really viable physical threat to her in the entire movie makes it an actual necessity. Good writing there, believe it or not.
I’m not a fan of rape scenes. Honestly, I think most writers who come up with them have 1) never come close to getting raped themselves or 2) never known someone who was a victim. It takes a defter touch to approach and handle than most people who write action-y movies are capable of showing. Honestly, my “favorite” rape scene* was probably Captain Aceveda getting forced to give oral sex to a thug on The Shield. That one was good because it subverted the trope, and gave all the men watching a closer taste of what it must feel like to have your dignity taken, rather than a woman rape victim showing up with bruises on her face, acting skittish, and only earning token pity from viewers.
*Honorable mention goes to the old Liam Neeson movie Rob Roy, simply because the rape in that one was a major plot point, and treated with the gravity it deserved, if it’s going to be used.
However. That being said, I thought it did a great job setting up The Mother****er’s character as someone who wasn’t nearly the dangerous threat he wished he was. He wants to be taken seriously as a badass villain, but it’s points like this that remind us that he is not. It was a clumsy, tasteless way to do it, but it did its job to drive that point home.
I almost laughed when I saw his face on screen. Not because he’s a bad actor: on the contrary, I think this dude is freaking awesome at acting. He makes Dany’s scenes in A Game of Thrones watchable on a dramatic level. It was just a surprise, is all. It’s also curious, considering that of all the people appearing on that show, his role is one of the most secure ones. But good on him for finding other work when he’s not guarding the mother of dragons.
Much like in some regions of Mexico, diarrhea was referred to as Montezuma’s revenge, we can call this part Hit Girl’s revenge. For some reason, I am simply not a big fan of toilet humor. I can watch all the guts and gore you could possibly put in front of me, and it won’t faze me. But start using #1 and #2, and I get grossed out. I understand it was necessary to have the badass Hit Girl end up on top in her confrontation with the mean girls at school, but geez. It was gross, and seemed more than a little sloppy for her to be waving around military surplus gear. I thought she was trying to keep her identity a secret? Whatever.
Otherwise, though, she was fantastic. I came away from the original movie thinking “Well, if anyone’s career is going to take off because of this movie, it’s going to be that little girl with the potty mouth.” The concept of a 10-12 year old girl beating up adults seemed ludicrous to think about, given the ridiculous size advantage that she’d be giving up in any encounter. Fast forward to now, and it’s a little better, but not by much. But she sells it SO WELL that we have no choice but to take her seriously. She owns this character, so well to the point that I hope she doesn’t get typecasted.
In many ways, you could easily make a case that this movie would make more sense if you called it Hit Girl instead of Kick Ass 2. She takes the longer character journey than the title character. She learns the lessons, and passes them on to him. She’s the one that comes of age, not Kick Ass. She’s also the one who, of course, must dispatch of the only truly major physical threat at the climax of the movie, as she is the only one who really comes close to have the skillset of a superhero.
And I’m okay with all of this. She stole the movie, much like she would’ve stolen the original if the great Nicolas Cage hadn’t been in it.
Yeah, yeah. Hit Girl has his picture on her wall. And they gave us Jim Carrey to fill the void of competent superhero who has to be sacrificed. But it’s just not the same! There is only one true Cage. And he can play any role.
My verdict on this movie? It wasn’t half as bad as most critics would have you think. If you go look at http://www.rottentomatoes.com, you’ll see a critical rating of 29%, which is pretty bad. BUT. If you look at the audience score, you’ll see a different story. 72% liked it there. Most people who went to see this movie ended up liking it. And I count myself in their number. It wasn’t as good as the original, no. Not by a longshot. But it was entertaining, and I’ll take entertaining over technically good if I can only have one of the two.
I give this movie ***. Which means, naturally, that it was good, but not great. The original Kick Ass was a solid **** movie, and this was just a step down. If you liked the first movie, it’s more than likely you’ll also like this one.
I still miss Nic Cage, though.
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