Shockingly violent and even more shockingly sweary, 2010’s Kick-Ass delivered taboo busting thrills and close-to-the-knuckle dark comedy with its tale of a geeky teenager who becomes a real-life superhero.
Kick-Ass 2 serves up more of the same but feels schlocky rather than audaciously transgressive. Where original director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman, adapting Mark Millar’s comic-book series, somehow managed to tread a delicate tightrope between indulging fanboy fantasies and sending them up, sequel writer-director Jeff Wadlow falls off the rope.
The new film’s story is so muddled it’s no wonder he loses his balance. When we encounter the first film’s surviving hero and heroine, Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s masked hero Kick-Ass and Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit Girl, they are trying to live as normal teenagers. Then they resume their vigilante activities; then one of them stops; then starts again; and so, independently, does the other.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s spoilt rich kid Red Mist is far less conflicted. Seeking revenge on Kick-Ass for his father’s death, he reinvents himself as a supervillain, complete with an outfit fashioned from recycled bondage gear, and sets about collecting his own team of masked bad guys.
A rag-tag bunch of vigilantes, inspired by Kick-Ass’s earlier exploits and led Jim Carrey’s born-again ex-mobster, Colonel Stars and Stripes, get pulled into the conflict, which leads to a predictably bloody showdown.
Once again, the violence is eye-watering (Carrey, famously, disowned the film because of it), but the laughs aren’t as big and you get the feeling the filmmakers are straining after effect. Moretz’s sword-wielding Hit Girl is still an amazing character, in or out of her costume – the comeuppance she delivers to a snooty clique of cheerleaders is priceless – but even she can’t recapture the guilty-pleasure impact of her first outing.
In cinemas from Wednesday 14th August.
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