Chloe Moretz is going to be a big, big star one day. She's got drive, determination and, most importantly, masses of acting talent. Kick-Ass was her breakthrough film, and her sweary, butt-kicking Hit Girl was just about the best thing in it. Now we have the sequel, in which Moretz is just as good, if not better – sadly, though, the film itself is nowhere near as good as the original.
Set three years after Kick-Ass, part two sees Hit Girl, aka Mindy Macready, being fostered by her late father's police partner, Marcus (Chestnut). She's been forced to hang up the cape, and start attending high school like a normal girl (her father home-schooled her, mainly in the arts of weapon use and killing). Meanwhile, Kick-Ass – aka Dave Lizewski (Taylor-Johnson) – is still fighting the good fight, and has inspired a bunch of other New York citizens to dress up as superheroes and roam the streets fighting crime. He joins an Avengers-style team formed by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey), and gets romantically involved with Night Bitch (Booth). Meanwhile, Chris D'Amico (Mintz-Plasse) – who was The Red Mist in the first film – is seeking revenge on Kick-Ass for killing his crimelord dad, so becomes a supervillain named The Motherfucker and forms a team of his own.
The first Kick-Ass was a riotous subversion of the comic book superhero genre, with a smart script by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, and terrific direction from Vaughn. Their lightness of touch is missing here. Wardlow's effort is far too heavy-handed and downright nasty, and nowhere near as funny as the first film. It's also a little creepy. The sexualisation of Macready / Hit-Girl is just wrong on so many levels – she's a 15-year-old girl! And there's an attempted rape scene that will simply make you squirm in your seat. Much has been made of the violence, particularly by Carrey (who famously refused to promote the film), and while Kick-Ass 2 is a very, very violent film, it's no more violent than the first one ... but it is a lot nastier, and more mean-spirited.
Kick-Ass 2 is never boring, but it's a bit of a mess. It does pick up somewhat in the final act, with the requisite good-guys-vs-bad-guys battle scene in The Motherfucker's evil lair (compete with shark tank). But by then it's a bit too much too late. The film's one saving grace is Moretz. She has such a screen presence, and is such a fine actress, that she elevates the material more than it deserves. Forget Kick-Ass 3 – can Goldman and Vaughn please give us a Hit Girl film?