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By Shane M. Dallmann

kick-ass-2-aaron-johnson-christopher-mintz-plasse

As much as I often disagreed with him, I genuinely miss Roger Ebert and it’s times like this that I miss him the most. You may recall that Ebert gave KILL BILL VOL. 1 a four-star review when Mick LaSalle railed against what he insisted was pornographic violence. But when KICK-ASS came out? It was MICK with the equivalent of a four-star review and ROGER condemning the brutality (for the sake of Hit Girl more than anything else). I would so, so love to know what Roger would have said about KICK-ASS 2, because Mick, while he essentially liked the film, complained that the enjoyment came at too high a price… because of the brutal violence. As for me? I, too, find the sequel somewhat problematic… but NOT because of the violence.

The various characters have had a chance to lick their wounds after the extreme events of the original KICK-ASS. Dave/Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has bowed out of the superhero business so long as he can’t team up with Hit Girl (Chloe Grace-Moretz), who believes she’s doing just fine on her own and refuses to look at Big Daddy as anything but a treasured, heroic memory. But the traumatized Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) will not let go of his obsessive desire to avenge his father’s death at the hands (and bazooka) of Kick-Ass, even though his mother and even his mob family members are desperate for him to live a “normal,” crime-free life.

As fate would have it, each of our principals winds up with a single parent (or surrogate thereof) eager to mentor and nurture. Morris Chestnut is Mindy/Hit Girl’s appointed guardian who strives to protect his charge from what her father molded her into… and much to Mindy’s shock, she realizes that maybe she DOES care about the sort of things that high-school age girls are supposed to like (it’s no wonder she was tapped to play Carrie–her performance is perhaps the most effective amongst many fine ones to be seen here). John Leguizamo has a terrific turn as Chris’s valet/protector: he, too, tries to steer his new boss away from vengeance and violence (not to mention racial stereotyping), but he knows on which side his bread is buttered, so he reluctantly allows the rise of a new, pathetic “supervillain.” Red Mist is out… enter the… twelve-letter obscenity you don’t repeat in polite company, although the Paper Wing is on the verge of showcasing one with a hat, if you take my meaning. And Garrett M. Brown? He offers a fine, sensitive performance in the role of Dave’s father, but the character is just a bit TOO Uncle Ben. And you know what that means.

In the effort to bring the stories of these characters to a proper resolution after what was started in the first film, the demand to impose “real life” consequences on them ironically leads to the deployment of certain predictable devices. When Dave, caught in the act (as it were), angrily tells his father off? Need I say anything more? And while you just KNOW that the high school bitch princesses who pretend to befriend Mindy are going to get theirs? The payoff is merely a gratuitous gross-out gag (with REALLY bad special effects, to boot). The futility of revenge is amply demonstrated throughout the film, but the best thing KICK-ASS 2 has going for it is the codes of honor (or lack thereof) that cause the various characters to form their teams.

On the one side we have “Justice Forever,” honored to have Kick-Ass finally in their midst but actually led by Commander Stars and Stripes, played by Jim Carrey as a former mob enforcer who’s found Jesus (which is NO laughing matter here). Carrey has reportedly disowned this film thanks to (all together now) the violence… did he not read the script?? It’s his loss if he turns his back on one of his best roles in a long time; he’s the perfect glue for the band of crime victims who come together to heal themselves and hopefully protect others. On the other hand, we have the whiny, petulant MF’er who’d never last a second on the streets, but whose vast wealth is gratefully accepted by a cadre that can dish out more than mere protection (oh, wait till you meet Mother Russia…).

So yes, the bad taste jokes continue to fly and horrible things happen to people you care about. But you’ll want to see how it turns out in the end (and I should warn you that this film’s disappointing box-office take isn’t the difference-maker, because KICK-ASS 2 was designed as an ending, not as a mere second chapter). While not quite as fresh and exciting as the first film (and not nearly as disturbing as SUPER), KICK-ASS 2 is well worth seeing.

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