Despite being darker, a tad edgier, slightly gorier, and raising the body count, 'Kick-Ass 2' doesn't quite live up to its name. There are all kinds of kick-ass action and visuals, to be sure, but much of it feels empty and autonomous from the plot's rather weak attempt at attaching emotion and meaning to the graphic violence. Essentially, the characters — some new, most returning — spend a good deal of the screen-time talking and reacting to the fighting and bloodshed, but the action sequences themselves suddenly erupt as if separate, distant components. The abrupt shootout at the graveyard comes to mind as a prime example. In the face of this, the sequel still manages to be a decently entertaining continuation.
Taking over where Matthew Vaughn left off, Jeff Wadlow writes and directs this follow-up to 2010's shocking sleeper hit with similar enthusiasm and a wild gusto that subversively imagines a world with masked vigilantes and the consequences of living in such a reality. This is arguably the film's best and strongest aspect because it not only expands on the universe established by its predecessor but also deconstructs its repercussions. Aaron Taylor-Johnson returns as the eponymous wannabe superhero that more often has his butt kicked than the other way around. Due to his public notoriety from the previous movie, he's considered as the first to the don a mask and inspired hundreds others to do likewise.
Wadlow and team introduce audiences to these new additions, namely a superhero team called "Justice Forever" which Kick-Ass decides to join, but they largely feel like background props, providing mild comic relief or serving as little more than plot devices. Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) is not a doctor of physics, but swings a decorated aluminum bat that'll make criminals fly. The nerdy-looking Insect Man (Robert Emms) is more or less an anti-bullying campaign while the crime-fighting duo Remembering Tommy is actually a married couple (Steven Mackintosh and Monica Dolan) searching for more information on their missing son. Night-Bitch (Lindy Booth) is simply there to be Kick-Ass's new love interest.
The leader of the team is arguably the best of the bunch, and it would have been great if the filmmakers had spent more time with him. I would even go so far as to suggest Jim Carrey's performance as Colonel Stars and Stripes is his best in recent memory. Taylor-Johnson is rather a dud in this sequel, but Carrey's former mobster-turned-informant more than makes up for it. As the leader, and unlike the others, the Colonel takes his mask and moniker very serious as a humanitarian who swiftly swings his bat of justice in the name of helping those less fortunate. He encourages his team to volunteer at the soup kitchen by day, and by night they raid an illegal brothel that deals in the slave trade.
The film's other saving grace is undoubtedly Chloë Grace Moretz, and to be perfectly honest, she's really the only reason for even watching this. Still reeling from the loss of Big Daddy, Moretz's Mindy struggles with living a normal life with her guardian (Morris Chestnut) versus her deep passion of viciously and brutally punishing criminals in her superhero persona Hit Girl. Her storyline of challenging high school, teenage hormones and a small pack of mean girls — the lunchroom vengeance scene is a hilarious highlight — is sadly relegated to subplot material even though it is far more interesting and engaging than Kick-Ass. Moretz brings heart and charm to an otherwise dark and violent child character.
In the end, however, the thematic focus revolves around the effects and impact made by the presence of average people taking to the streets while wearing masks. Most importantly is following up on spoiled mobster rich kid Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) after his father's death. Needless to say, he's driven by vengeance and a deep hatred for our main hero, creating a violently ruthless team of villains that have no qualms with murder and the destruction of society. Although Wadlow fails to deliver a sequel that's nearly as good as its predecessor, at least 'Kick-Ass 2' can be said to confront the consequences of real-life masked vigilantes. Unfortunately, a few good and somewhat inspiring moments are not enough to save this action-comedy follow-up from a serious beating.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Kick-Ass 2' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The Region Free, BD50 disc is accompanied by a DVD-9 on the opposing panel inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase with a glossy, lightly-embossed slipcover. At startup, the disc commences with a few skippable trailers before switching to a menu screen with music and full-motion clips.
Sweet motherf'ing vengeance hits Blu-ray with a fantastic, highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode. Definition and clarity are top-notch, revealing every nook and cranny inside Dave's house, Mindy's pink bedroom, the Colonel's underground bunker and The Motherf**ker's secret lair. Costumes and hair are razor-sharp, facial complexions appear healthy with lifelike textures during close-ups, and shadow details are plainly visible in poorly-lit interiors. Primaries are animated and richly saturated while secondary hues are accurately rendered and full-bodied. Blacks are spot-on and inky, providing the 2.40:1 image with excellent dimensionality and cinematic appeal.
The only minor points of complaint keeping the high-def transfer from perfection have to do with contrast levels. For the most part, the video is comfortably bright and well-balanced, but a few moments, mostly in the first half having to do with Chris D'Amico, show whites noticeably blooming and clipping. Not sure if it's a stylistic choice, but the end result is finer lines ruined and white-washed. A couple other scenes are also a bit softer than others, and thin strips of metal in some sequences expose very mild aliasing. All things considered, however, this superhero sequel is tip-top.
The follow-up about real-life masked vigilantes also debuts to Blu-ray with a thoroughly enjoyable and exciting DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack.
Understandably, much of the action takes place up front since the movie involves a good deal of dialogue and character interaction. Thankfully, vocals are crystal-clear, precise and very well-prioritized while convincing off-screen effects spread into the other two channels to create a broad soundstage. The mid-range is surprisingly extensive with rich, detailed clarity in the highs, which complements the score and song selections splendidly well. Low bass also adequately powerful and terrifically responsive, yet it never really plummets into the lower depths with impressive authority although the shootout at the graveyard offers a fun time. Rear activity is pretty energetic with several atmospherics employed for ambience, but action sequences explode with a combination of music and discrete effects that are plenty exciting and immersive, making for an awesomely entertaining lossless mix.
Picking up where the last film left off, Jeff Wadlow writes and directs 'Kick-Ass 2' with the same enthusiasm, visual gusto, and penchant for wild ultra-violence as its predecessor, but the film lacks a truly engaging story. With the same cast returning, plus the addition of Jim Carrey, the follow-up is entertaining enough, with several humorous and action-packed moments, but there's a weird disconnect between the characters and the violent repercussions of their masked vigilantism. The Blu-ray, on the other hand, is top-notch, with an excellent audio and video presentation. With a good set of supplements to boot, the overall package makes for a good rental, but diehard fans are sure to be satisfied with their purchase.