The original Kick Ass graphic novel and movie helped kick off a mini-trend of “true to life” superhero movies which purported to show how real life superheroes without super powers would behave. (Of course Watchmen explored similar territory before Kick Ass came along but it also had Dr. Manhattan with his godlike powers.)
Like virtually all sequels, Kick Ass 2 tries to one up its predecessor and it certainly tries hard. Everything, the violence, the sex, the gore, and even the foul language have been turned up a notch. (The main villain for example is a vengeful Chris D’Amico who goes from being Red Mist to being The Motherfucker.) All the while this movie is reminding us that this isn’t a comic book; this is real life.
Except that the violence and characters are so over the top that the reality that this movie claims to be aiming for seems to frequently slip from its grasp. One of The Motherfucker’s supervillain recruits for example a woman dubbed “Mother Russia” who is basically a slightly less masculine version of Rocky III’s Ivan Drago. Mother Russia sports a combination of superhuman strength and deadliness which would put many superpowered villains to shame. While this makes her a great supervillain, it also makes her a difficult, if not impossible, to believe that this is a real, flesh and blood, person with no powers whatsoever.
Mother Russia is a perfect example of how divorced from reality this movie is at times. At one point she murders ten police officers in what a fit of what can only be described as creative brutality. While the movie describes the police response to this incident as heavy-handed, it doesn’t look particularly heavy-handed or even remotely effective to me as a viewer. While the notion of a bumbling/corrupt police force is a common theme in vigilante stories, the police department of the Kick Ass universe makes the Miami Metro PD look like a squadron of super cops by comparison.
But at least her final battle with Hit Girl was awesome.
As in the first Kick Ass, Mindy Macready, AKA Hit Girl, is much more compelling and complex than the titular character. She’s the real superhero here, having been trained from early childhood by her father to fight crime. In many ways, she’s the darkest character in these movies. As we’re reminded more than once; Hit Girl’s childhood was stolen as she was trained to be a killer, not by a supervillain but by a superhero; her father Damon Macready who is Big Daddy in the first Kick Ass movie.
WIth Big Daddy’s death in the first movie, Mindy is now being raised by Marcus, Damon Macready’s friend and former partner. Now fifteen, Mindy spends half the movie trying to get away from the superhero lifestyle and trying to fit in in high school where she must battle a new form of evil, mean girls. In the end Mindy is unable to fit in and finds it easier to go back to ruthlessly killing bad guys. It’s not exactly the most uplifting lesson for teenage girls I suppose but as a character arc, it works well for Hit Girl. She is damaged beyond repair and is essentially a modern day gunslinger. And like the gunslingers of the Old West, she fights to protect civilization but cannot remain a part of it for long.
But as the rest of Kick Ass 2 struggles to match the darkness of Hit Girl, it loses part of what made the movie so much fun. It loses its sense of humor. To be sure there is a lot of humor in this film but it is often overwhelmed by a fierce determination to be dark and gritty. (At one point, for example The Motherfucker tries to rape Kick Ass’s girlfriend but can’t maintain an erection and orders that she be brutally beaten instead.) While the original Kick Ass movie also had this problem, it did a better job of finessing it and maintaining a light and airy feeling of fun in all but its most dire moments. In Kick Ass 2 the balance shifts in favor of darkness and despair far too often.