'Kick-Ass 2' - More Heroes, More Problems [Review]

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It's loud and dumb (not in a fun way), but the greatest sin of "Kick-Ass 2" is that it has no idea what it's supposed to be.

When we last saw the hapless Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), the high school student was hanging up his green and yellow Kick-Ass costume forever while former Hit-Girl Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) was likewise giving up the vigilante business following their brutal confrontation with Frank D'Amico. And it's almost from the very first minutes that the problems with "Kick-Ass 2" start to become evident as Hit Girl puts on the mask again ("just because," the movie is content to shrug) and Dave returns to his side gig as the punching bag for New York criminals out of sheer boredom. This abrupt change in heart--well, mostly for Dave--wouldn't be so jarring if the first film didn't make the case that running around as Kick-Ass was probably one of the most traumatic things in the character's life.

This time out, Kick-Ass/Dave is gung-ho about bringing justice to the streets, seemingly forgetting how social media works and hooking up with Justice Forever, a ragtag group of low-rent costumed heroes led by Jim Carrey's Col. Stars and Stripes. While the team is out doing community service and occasionally terrorizing human traffickers, Christopher Mintz-Plasse is busy concocting his revenge against Kick-Ass for Frank's death-by-rocket, dropping his alter ego the Red Mist for the new moniker "The Motherf**ker." Meanwhile, Mindy is suffering from a crisis of conscience because her guardian wants her to yet again hang up the mask and ninja blades.

For those of you keeping count, we've had Dave and Mindy both decide to hang up their alter egos twice before the second movie has properly gotten started, the introduction of a super team, a villain recruiting his own evil super team, and a New York crackdown on costumed weirdos knocking around in the background. Almost none of these elements flow together in any sort of organic way, just crashing into each other as one scene bleeds into the next until the script puts Dave and Mindy in the same place in the final act to deal with the Motherf**ker.

And let's get this out of the way: Mintz-Plasse's character name makes no sense in the context of the rest of the story. Did he have some kind of weird Oedipal issue that the film was wary about touching? Why's this such a badass name to the son of slain mob boss? For that matter, what woman not constructed out of Mark Millar-logic would willingly call herself the Night Bitch? It's jarring how much of the world of "Kick-Ass 2" feels built up from what a 11-year-old who just discovered profanity might find edgy, but for anyone else, it's simply exasperating, a collection of barely-there characters constructed inside of a joke but outside of any kind of narrative drive just knocking along until the movie ends.

Honestly, I couldn't tell you what "Kick-Ass 2" was about. I get there's a plot here about escalation and forming two opposing teams, but there are nearly zero articulate ideas behind any of that, as the movie loses even the tenuous grounding of the first film to start introducing muscle-clad Siberian murder women who can rip doors off of cars. There's some vague talk about being/finding yourself but most of the primary characters in "Kick-Ass 2" are sociopaths (or at least wildly selfish), and the film seems painfully unaware of this.

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Moretz, Plasse, and Carrey and stranded in a loose, confused movie with interesting roles: Moretz, in particular, has a "Mean Girls" subplot that almost could have been a real story if she weren't surrounded by cartoon characters and nearly zero reason to participate in this storyline. And I feel like there's a cut of "Kick-Ass" out there where Col. Stars and Stripes gets to shine beyond the brief impression of him as a tough-talking Big Daddy 2.0.

And it's like that with nearly all of "Kick-Ass 2": all premise, shoddy execution. Perhaps for some of you, the action scenes might keep you engaged for the mercifully brief running time, but Jeff Wadlow and regular Guy Ritchie Director of Photography Tim Maurice-Jones never saw a punch or a kick they didn't think couldn't be livened up by rattling the picture around to the point of incomprehensibility.

Woven throughout the messy "Kick-Ass 2" are a couple, maybe three interesting stories which ultimately go nowhere, making this sequel function as more of a retread of the original than its own standalone film. Whether it's the fault of the source material by writer Mark Millar (I haven't read it) or something getting lost in translation to the big screen by writer-director Jeff Wadlow, it's a film that retains all of the gross-out violence of the first but without the manic energy (or even understanding of what makes the concept so interesting).

"Kick-Ass2" will be in theaters on August 16.