"Kick-Ass 2," the sequel to the 2010 adaptation of Scottish comic book author Mark Millar's "Kick-Ass," comes in right on the bubble: It's no better, no worse and essentially no different from the jocular, clodhopping brutality of the first one. Here in writer-director Jeff Wadlow's crimson bauble, Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Taylor-Johnson reprise their roles as Hit Girl and Kick-Ass, respectively — the homegrown, limb-lopping superheroes and high school classmates (he's older, but she's tougher) who spill more blood than a klutzy production assistant on a Tarantino shoot.
Jim Carrey plays a supporting role in "Kick-Ass 2," that of Colonel Stars and Stripes, a born-again Christian and former mobster who leads a pack of alleged good-guy and good-girl masked vigilantes cleaning up the streets. After filming the sequel but before its release Carrey disassociated himself, tweeting: "In all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence." He cited the most recent example of an American school massacre, Sandy Hook, as the tragedy that "caused a change in my heart."
Then came the counterarguments from Carrey's "Kick-Ass 2" collaborators, including Moretz. She presumably has a percentage of the sequel's profits and sound business reasons to object.
"It's a movie and it's fake," she said, "and I've known that since I was a kid … if anything, these movies teach you what not to do." Separately Millar, who executive-produced the sequel, chimed in with his fiscal gratitude: "For your main actor to publicly say, 'This movie is too violent for me' is like saying, 'This porno has too much nudity.'"
Moretz's comment was the oddest, the one about how "Kick-Ass 2" instructs us in the costs of all that quippy, bloodthirsty street justice. Honestly, now. These movies do not teach anybody anything about avoiding the kick-assery. Worse, director Wadlow's fight sequences satisfy none of my action-movie requirements for clarity and excitement. They don't even satisfy my cheapest revenge impulses.
The sequel sets up one round of heinousness after another, and the audience waits for the money shots. When the meanest girls in high school bully Mindy, aka Hit Girl (the bullying here is constant and hammering), she pulls out her late father's "sick stick," which causes instantaneous and simultaneous projectile-vomiting and projectile-diarrhea, and that is meant to be really sick, as in cool.
So is the scene of attempted rape, played for laughs and focusing on Christopher Mintz-Plasse's self-made supervillain, who tries but fails to assault the vigilante (Lindy Booth) who calls herself "Night Bitch." (Honestly, this movie is rank.) I can only imagine how this scene will play to the assault victims in the audience, especially when Booth's character, hospitalized though apparently unviolated, says: "It's my own fault." I want to be believe Carrey's 11th-hour apology. Clearly he read the script (his character's dog bites off the genitals of his adversaries) and he may have done a quick body count in his head while reading. But it's not the quantity of the carnage in a movie, it's the quality, and as staged and filmed "Kick-Ass 2" is a cruddy mediocrity. Near the end Moretz's character says she must leave New York City and hide out because "vigilantes don't get a free pass." It's the best joke in the movie; in terms of its own hypocritical morality, "Kick-Ass 2" hands out free passes left and right.
"Kick-Ass 2" - 1 1/2 stars
MPAA rating: R (for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity)
Running time: 1:47
Opens: ThursdayCopyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun