Kick-Ass 2

August 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring:  Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow (“Never Back Down”)
Written by: Jeff Wadlow (debut)

As a somewhat tongue-in-cheek, extremely violent and profane send-up of the superhero genre still thriving at the box office, 2010’s “Kick-Ass” asked the question: what if normal people decided to be comic book-style heroes? The answer was a decent-enough adventure punctuated by the memorable father-daughter crime fighting duo of Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage, even more unhinged that normal) and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz, the most foul-mouthed 11-year-old ever). As a comic book movie with a sizeable-enough take at the box office, the release of “Kick-Ass 2” was a foregone conclusion.

Picking up several years after the first film, “Kick-Ass 2” finds Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy Macready (Moretz, not the late country singer) training together to turn Kick-Ass and Hit Girl into a dynamic duo set on cleaning up the streets. After an encounter with some thugs turns bloody, though, Mindy’s guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut) insists she retire from the superhero business. With his would-be partner forced into the life of a normal high school freshman, Dave joins up with a group of vigilantes inspired by Kick-Ass, calling themselves Justice Forever. Led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), the team looks to put an end to crime in the city. Little do they know, though, that the former superhero Red Mist, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse doing that same old Christopher Mintz-Plasse thing), has warped himself into the world’s first supervillan. He’s assembled a team of hired thugs to do two things: burn the city to the ground and destroy Kick-Ass.

While the first film often strained to prove how edgy and subversive it was, “Kick-Ass 2” feels more comfortable positioning itself as a straight-up comic book adventure, which turns out to be the most ho-hum part of the script. Taylor-Johnson’s Kick-Ass comes across as a more-boring Peter Parker, and Mintz-Plasse’s villain, the Mother-Fucker, is yet another delusional, power-hungry nerd role in a career full of them. To the film’s benefit, though, Moretz’s Mindy/Hit Girl gets the meatiest part. A second-act riff on “Mean Girls” is ripe enough for its own movie, hilariously highlighted by a scene featuring a prototypical boy band setting off an adolescent fire deep inside the street-tough Mindy. That plot line, along with a fun turn from Jim Carrey, unfortunately comes to an end too soon as the movie decides to get back to its clash between crowds of non-super powered good and evil people in ridiculous costumes fighting in a warehouse. But I’d much rather watch “Hit Girl Goes to High School.”

Never Back Down

March 3, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Sean Faris, Djimon Hounsou, Amber Heard
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow (“Cry Wolf”)
Written by: Chris Hauty (“Homeward Bound 2: Lost in San Francisco”)

With the ever-growing popularity of Mixed Martial Arts (if you don’t know who the Gracie family is this movie probably isn’t for you), it was only a matter of time before a feature film on the grueling sport found its way to the theater. It’s a disappointment, however, that “Never Back Down” is the one to start the trend.

Like a 21st century version of “The Karate Kid” (although it couldn’t hold its own against the likes of Danielson and Mr. Miyagi) mixed with the annoying aspects of something like “The O.C.” “Never Back Down” follows the story of a Jake Tyler (Faris), a high school kid who moves to Orlando with his family to start a new life only to be singled out by a bully (a la the Cobra Kai) whose only concern is to inflict physical pain on the new kid in town.

The bully in this instance is Ryan McCarthy (Cam Gigandet), a popular kid at the local high school who’s also their best fighter. Ryan sets his sights on Jake after he learns that he has gotten into some trouble in the past for fighting at his old school.

Jake is no slouch. He’s a tough kid who takes a lot of the aggression he has built up after his father’s death out on whoever brings up the tragic events of his life. Still, Ryan is at a much higher level than him in terms of overall skill as Jake finds out when he is beaten down during a party he is invited to.

When Jake realizes the only way he is going to stop Ryan’s constant hounding is to fight him in a sanctioned match, he turns to Jean Roqua (Hounsou), the owner of a local gym, who knows a lot about what it takes to be a successful MMA brawler.

And so the story moves along in cliché form as Ryan wears his heart on his sleeve as he trains for a big underground match only a month away. All the while his mother and him bicker over petty things at home and his little brother (the only realistic character in the entire movie played by actor Wyatt Smith) plays tennis and looks up to his big bro, even if he’s always getting his face pounded.

Although Smith and two-time Academy Award nominee Hounsou are solid, everyone else with testosterone running through their bodies is about as believable as a storyline in professional wrestling. Are we to understand that somewhere on this planet there is a high school where every student is interested in mixed martial arts? Without a rational narrative we can only endure so much of the so-so fight scenes. The whole time, I was waiting for another iconic crane kick. Instead, “Never Back Down” taps out before the final round.