Loosely speaking, the main premise of the first 'Kick-Ass' film was: "What if superheroes were real?" - a world carried forward in its sequel, both films based on Mark Millar's controversial comic book series. The sublime opening swell of Henry Jackman's newly electrifying main titles theme promised much for 'Kick-Ass 2'. Promise that wasn't quite realised but with a healthy amount of enjoyment along the way.
Following the events of the first film, self-made superhero Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has inspired a new series of caped crusaders but has relegated himself to everyday high school life as Dave Lizewski. But Dave still harbours ambitions of fighting crime, and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) is on hand to train him. Their partnership comes to an end and Hit-Girl is forced to face up to her adolescence, leaving Kick-Ass to join a group of new superheroes, led by Colonel Stars & Stripes (Jim Carrey).
Meanwhile, Red Mist is no more and The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is born. Having witnessed the death of his mob boss father at the hands of Kick-Ass, The Motherfucker swears revenge on his heroic nemesis - recruiting an army of villainous minions, leading to a brutal spree of violence against the new superheroes and those closest to Dave.
Superhero stories are often driven by loss - such as your Uncle Ben in 'Spiderman' - and 'Kick-Ass 2' is the same. Indeed, its supervillain is arguably the one most driven by loss. Yet these feelings and consequences often come across as somewhat hollow, and devoid of their supposedly real world basis. One moment, a character is on their deathbed. Soon after, they're taking on an army.
These troubling elements seem to be the result of some lazy writing, best/worst seen in the 'Mean Girls'-esque (or slightly 'Carrie'-inspired - whose forthcoming remake co-incidentally stars Moretz) sub-plot that Hit-Girl suffers through. There are serious shortcuts to her high school arc, which perhaps also suggest some vigorous editing, while the clichéd retired superhero lark rears its ugly head more than once.
Hit-Girl/Moretz, however, is something of a shining beacon for 'Kick-Ass 2', along with a nice secondary turn for John Leguizamo as The Motherfucker's bodyguard. Moretz particularly brings a depth to her role that Taylor-Johnson doesn't quite manage. Intriguingly, there's also a strong and welcome British presence in the cast with Daniel Kaluuya, Andy Nyman, and Benedict Wong all playing characters with significant screen-time.
Writer/director Jeff Wadlow may have struggled with the screenplay but he often brings a sense of energy to the film - particularly in the action sequences, which may not replicate the success of Matthew Vaughn's first offering, but provide enough of a ride to enjoy. The satire and the subversion of Vaughn's film are equally absent but the occasional humorous quip or moment of gravitas mean that Wadlow's effort stands up as a passable sequel.
'Kick-Ass 2' is in UK cinemas now, through Universal.