One of the few advantages of being so late with this review is, I get to see what everyone else thought.
One of the major disadvantages is, I don't exactly agree with the majority view on this one. Always a worry, that.
And I've seem some pretty brutal assessments of this film.
This sequel to Matthew Vaughn's hyperkinetic adaptation of the Mark Millar comic book isn't, it's true, a patch on its predecessor. But it isn't exactly an absolute stinker.
Most of the old gang are reunited. Nicolas Cage is, of course, only there in spirit. His costume stands in a glass case like Jason Todd's does in the Batcave. A permanent reminder that all that ass-kicking fun can have serious consequences. His place as gonzo father figure to the teenage would-be superheroes is taken by Jim Carrey's Colonel Stars and Stripes.
Carrey's much-publicised refusal to promote the movie, citing its extreme violence, is puzzling. Despite sharing a 15 rating with the first Kick-Ass film, this one feels a touch less ferocious to me. One might imagine that Carrey saw the first one before signing up. And it's not as if his squeamishness could be a mask for shame about his performance. He's very good in this film.
But when I say 'most of the old gang are reunited' there are two names that — while they aren't missing altogether — have slipped a little way down the credits. Matthew Vaughn is listed as producer for this one and while I'm sure I saw Jane Goldman's name whizz by listed as something like executive producer I couldn't confirm that on IMDB at the time of writing.
And they are missed.
Kick Ass 2 lacks Vaughn's flair, and it particularly misses Goldman's playful, subversive way with dialogue. The voiceover from Aaron Taylor-Johnson can't quite paper over the cracks in the over-complicated structure. And there aren't enough quotable lines surviving from Mark Millar's original books to make up for the loss of Goldman's way with a one-liner.
…and personally, I've never found rape a suitable topic for comedy.
Writer/director Jeff Wadlow does a better job than you or I might have done, stitching together Millar's Kick-Ass 2 and Hit Girl books into a cohesive whole. But he suffers by comparison with the team that preceded him, now both moving on to another Mark Millar adaptation – Secret Service.
But let's look at the upside. Chloë Grace Moretz delivers, as you'd expect, the best moments in the film. Showing a new vulnerability in a Mean Girls subplot she's still there with that signature wry smirk and more knives than Gordon Ramsay in the film's plentiful action set-pieces.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse oscillates convincingly between ineffectual goofiness and out-and-out mania as (I'm going to say it) The Motherfucker. The supporting cast, in particular Lindy Booth as Night Bitch and Olga Kurkulina as a fearsome Mother Russia, turn in memorable performances.
If you've read Millar's books there are enough changes that this film will feel pretty fresh, with sudden blocks of pure Millar (and a few posters for his other books) parachuted in here and there just to remind you what kind of twisted mind all this stuff comes from.
This story of Dave Lizewski's attempt to build his own family-substitute superteam plods along like Ben Grimm more than it soars like Johnny Storm. But clobberin' time comes around often enough that you can just about overlook that.