We should stop and appreciate when a sequel does well. As has been documented a number of times on The Legionnaire, this is so rarely the case. A big reason for these failures is expectations. When a follow-up, no matter how or when it is made, does not check all the boxes people want from it, people tend to get mad. The internet is lousy with angry fans of certain films vomiting their opinions into the information super highway. Yes, I realize the irony. You can point to many reviews on this blog of me complaining about how part two is not as good as part one. I take it even further, putting forth spoken versions of these same thoughts on a podcast called Down & Out Reviews, which you can find on Spotify. For what it is worth, I do not like to be critical. Hence, this is why we should celebrate when the next installment in a franchise is good, no matter the number of movies in it. To this end, I give you Kick Ass 2 (2013).
When we left off in Kick Ass (2010), our title self-proclaimed vigilante who literally had pain beaten out of him, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), had helped Hit Girl, real name Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz), take down a local crime lord. After doing so, they basically returned to their normal lives, with Mindy staying with an adoptive father, Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut). Marcus wants Mindy to be a normal teenaged girl (the film is set four years later), but Kick Ass 2 reveals that her and Dave are continuing to hone their skills to fight crime. They are not the only ones preparing. The son of that mafioso they had taken down, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), harbors a grudge against Kick Ass and Hit Girl for what they did to his father. When he and his family’s assistant, Javier (John Leguizamo), find guns and, um, gear of a sexual nature, he decides to create for himself a supervillain persona, the name of which I will not repeat here, but can be easily found on the International Movie Database (IMDb). Meanwhile, Mindy steps up Dave’s training, because she is clearly the more talented of the two, sending him out to rough neighborhoods to purposely pick fights. When she intervenes and the police are called, Marcus (who knows her alter-ego) essentially grounds her. This leaves Kick Ass on his own, though he finds an alternative group of superheroes headed by a former mafia hitman turned born-again Christian Sal Bertolinni (Jim Carey), who goes by Colonel Stars and Stripes and carries a patriotic baseball bat. With him and few other well-meaning but woefully under-trained do-gooders, they form Justice Forever, complete with a hideout. While they take to the neighborhood and stop a series of petty crimes, Mindy adjusts to life as a high school girl. Marcus wants to see her socialize more, so she goes to parties with her peers. They do not take her seriously, though, and there is a bit of hazing involved. In the process, she also discovers she has hormones, which kick in when they see a music video of a popular group. When she later shows them up with some moves while trying out for cheerleading, they vow revenge. This comes when Mindy goes on her first date, but is ambushed by those she thought her friends, who take her date and leave her alone in the woods. She then seeks comfort from Dave, who helps her to realize who she really is: an unstoppable, crime fighting machine. While Mindy had been exploring the finer points of high school drama, Chris began recruiting other villains to his cause. He forms his own team, with another name I would rather not repeat, and they set to work on trying to avenge his father. Their first move is to attack Justice Forever’s base, where they find Colonel Stars and Stripes alone, killing him and posting it on Twitter. They then carry out reprisals against other vigilantes, which serves to intimidate them into breaking up. This spate of violence by masked individuals leads the police to begin arresting everyone, good or bad, donning a costume. In order to protect his son, Dave’s dad (Garrett M. Brown) comes forward as Kick Ass. Before long, Chris has him killed in prison, even though he knows it is not the real Kick Ass. Seeing him distraught over the loss of his dad, the former members of Justice Forever rally to him, including Mindy. Chris’ groups attacks them at the funeral, but fail to capture them. Instead, Dave and Mindy learn that Chris is planning a major operation in the city. Dave puts out a call on social media for any superhero listening to go to Chris’ warehouse lair to put an end to the destruction. In the ensuing battle, the fight comes down to Chris and Dave, though Dave is much better suited for hand-to-hand combat given all he learned from Mindy. Dave begins to take out his anger on Chris, but saves his enemy at the last minute from falling into the shark tank the supervillain put in his headquarters because it would not be complete without it. Chris refuses the help and swats Dave’s hand away, landing in the aquarium with the deadly fish. With everything settled, Mindy drops Chris off with a kiss, saying that she is leaving the city. Kick Ass is left on his own once more, and that is essentially where things end.
As I mentioned in my review of Kick Ass, these films call into question what it takes to be a hero, never mind the “super” part. Kick Ass 2 continues this theme, but talks about it in terms of what one person standing up for right can inspire. As usual, I will throw in here my Catholic sensibilities in regards to not wanting to commit violence in any form, including being a vigilante. Peace and love are not the sole purview of hippies. Nonetheless, it is nice to see the number of people who took after Kick Ass’ example. Not only that, but the kinds of people who did so. There is Doctor Gravity, who is actually a nurse named Samuel Keers (Donald Faison), and a husband and wife duo going simply by Tommy’s Father (Steven Mackintosh) and Mother (Monica Dolan), who want to do good to honor the memory of their son. These are not people prone to using their fists to solve a problem. It should be noted that part of what we see Justice Forever do involves volunteering at soup kitchens and being a positive influence in the community. There is more than one way to get people behind your cause. When Jesus started his ministry, there were those who thought the Messiah was supposed to be a military leader who would lead the Israelites to a restoration of the Kingdom of Jerusalem. Instead, Jesus fed the multitude with two fishes. Of course, it is not a complete apples-to-apples comparison, and in the end the movie does default to punching and kicking. Still, I can appreciate that there is at least some semblance of an alternative.
Kick Ass 2 is as fun of a movie as its predecessor. I also like that it does show a glimmer of something other than ass kicking. At the same time, it is quite bloody and irreverent, with a bit of graphicness in both fighting and sex scenes. It is not meant to be a cute and fluffy movie, which should be evident from the title. If you can get past some of these elements, and the kids are in bed, then there is something to be said for the rest.