Perhaps the only entertaining thing about "Kick-Ass 2" is Jim Carrey's mildly funny, beefy, born-again Christian vigilante, whose aversion to taking the Lord's name in vain is in perfect harmony with his ability to enjoy beating criminals to a pulp with a baton and allowing his dog to feed on their genitals as an interrogation technique.
It all sounds rather offensive and juvenile, doesn't it?
It should, because the "Kick-Ass" series is about exaggerating the conventions of superhero stories by depicting what would actually happen to scrawny, socially awkward teenagers should they ever don a cape and cowl and attempt to take down organized crime and save kittens from utility poles.
At top, this photo released by Universal Pictures shows Aaron Taylor-Johnson, left, as the young masked hero Kick-Ass, and Chloe Grace Moretz, as the blade-wielding Hit Girl, in a scene from the film, ”Kick-Ass 2.' Above, Johnson, right, and Jim Carrey are shown in another scene from the film.
The results are bloody, punishing, and humourless, reflecting the message of "Kick-Ass 2," which is that violence begets violence, that real life is not a comic book and when ordinary citizens take the law into their own hands, the consequences are often lethal.
In one scene, a character is cornered by a gang of thugs who nearly beat him to death until the potty-mouthed, purple-haired Hit-Girl rescues him, kicking and flipping, cutting her enemies to pieces. "I'm gonna go Saudi Arabia on your ass," she tells her last victim right before she chops off his hand.
Whether the scene wants to be offensive or funny, or both, is hard to tell, representing the biggest problem plaguing "Kick-Ass 2."
Despite its anti-violence message, the movie can't decide if it wants to critique a genre or reaffirm its tropes, suffering from an identity crisis that cripples it from the get-go.
It unintentionally glorifies the bloody demise of criminals at the hands of self-proclaimed superheroes who have too much fun fighting crime even if they renounce it in the end.
The movie is disastrous in execution and concept, primarily because it doesn't understand what satire is. It treats offensiveness and shock-factor as satire, when real satire exposes the absurdities and hypocrisies of genres or institutions while simultaneously being entertaining and artful.
There's nothing artful about "Kick-Ass 2." It's riddled with bad dialogue, unconvincing special effects, cartoonish characters, and it might just be a little racist.
At one point, the movie's antagonist, Chris D'Amico (whose silly supervillain moniker should not be dignified in print), assembles a team of supervillains, giving each one a racially charged name such as Black Death or Mother Russia.
Mother Russia resembles a female version of Ivan Drago from "Rocky IV," only bigger, badder, but slightly less laconic.
"Enough with the racist stereotypes," one character admonishes him.
"Archetypes," retorts D'Amico.
Such a self-aware quip is one of many that screams to the audience, "This is all just a joke!" as if merely acknowledging the racism makes it okay.
But even if the movie was a little more tactful, it still wouldn't be any fun, which is why Mr. Carrey's refusal to promote the movie, citing its unsettling depiction of gun violence in the wake of real-world tragedies, is rendered pointless, because "Kick-Ass 2" is far more intolerable as entertainment than it is morally insensitive.
Fear not, Mr. Carrey, your movie isn't provocative or controversial. It just sucks. This film receives 1 star out 4. Because that's how many times I laughed.