…especially when you have no real superpowers.
Required watching of the first “Kick Ass” film helps to bring you up to speed here. “Kick Ass 2” resumes months later after our principle hero, Kick Ass, aka Dave Lizewski (once again played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson, losing his thick Cockney accent), who has lost his taste for vigilantism and hung up his costume and twin battle sticks. But his ex-“partner” (of sorts) Hit Girl aka Mindy McCreedy (Chloe Grace Moretz) now a young teenager, hasn’t stopped beating up bad guys in her costumed purple wig and cape, even though her cop and surrogate father, Marcus (Morris Chestnut) thinks she’s attending high school all day.
Meanwhile, Kick Ass’ arch-nemesis, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), aka Chris D’amico, has sworn revenge from the first movie, when K.A. killed his mob boss father with a bazooka. He’s gone completely insane after his mom is accidentally killed by his own hands, and adopts a new super-villain name: (I can’t print it here, but his initials are M.F. Get it?). He initiates a wild plan with Javier, (John Leguizamo) his right-hand man, to kill K.A. anyway he can.
Hit Girl re-trains a reluctant Kick Ass when he realizes he can’t escape his true purpose in life and wants to resume his superhero persona and go back on the streets to help the people of the city. Soon Dave meets up with the “Justice Forever” league, a group of night time vigilantes that roam the streets doing good. They are: Captain Gravity (Donald Faison), the quirky Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), gay and unmasked Insect Man (Robert Emms), a couple remembering their dead son, Tommy (Stephen Mackintosh and Monica Dolan), and the Battle Guy (Clark Duke, Dave’s school buddy from the first movie). They are all lead by the sometimes dangerously unbalanced Col. Stars ‘n’ Stripes (an unrecognizable Jim Carrey, who has since gone on to denounce this movie for it’s violence!), a born-again Christian and ex-special forces who really kicks major butt!
But it’s Mindy that’s having the most problems… it’s called high school. Ingratiated into the “in” girls click, they have taken her into their inner circle to groom her as one of their own (like Winona Ryder in “Heathers”), but when Mindy shows them up in cheerleader practice, queen bee Brooke (Claudia Lee) plans her social demise. Bad move there, Brooke! NOBODY pisses off Hit Girl and lives to regret it… and it happens in a cafeteria scene that is both funny and repulsive. Mindy is grounded and is forbade to be Hit Girl at any cost, which is bad news for the Justice Forever league, but great news for M.F., who has recruited his own league of evil bad guys (and girls) who, one by one, take out members of the Justice Forever in an effort to find K.A. After Dave’s father pays the ultimate price for hiding his son’s secret identity, the gloves are off and Kick Ass, Hit Girl, and all the forces of good and evil clash in an ultimate showdown fight at M.F’s hideout.
While not quite as much fun as the first movie, K.A.2 still retains its comic book-y feel with director/writer Jeff Wadlow back at the helm for this sequel. And just like in the first film, it sets it up for another sequel, or in this case, a part three. And yet again, the focal point of this film (you would think) would be K.A. and his problems trying to cope with the lifestyles of being a superhero, but just like in the first film, it’s Hit Girl and her story that really draws you in. Moretz has grown up since she was 10-years-old character in the first movie, where she dominated the film with her foul mouth, incredible martial arts, and acting chops. Going toe-to-toe with Nicholas Cage and coming out looking as equals? Not too shabby! It’s no different here in the sequel where again she takes over the movie every time the camera is on her. The film clearly should have been about her and not K.A.
Now about the all the violence you’ve probably heard about this movie, yes there’s plenty of it as it was in the first film, but it’s no where near as violent as any Tarantino or Peckinpah film. In fact, many scenes were trimmed down or cut out! Trust me on this one.
MYSTERY MEN (1999)
A bunch of wanna-be superhero guys that hang out together in a diner and talk about fighting crime, but don’t actually do all that much fighting? Yes, you’re talking about one of my favorite movies, Mystery Men. Flying under the radar in the movie houses, this quirky little film was spawned by the equally quirky comic book written by Neil Cuthbert and Bob Burden.
Starring the impressive talents of Ben Stiller, Hank Anzaria, Bill Macy, Geoffrey Rush, Eddie Izzard, Paul Ruebens, Wes Studi, Jeanane Garafalo, and Greg Kinnear, it spins a bizarre tale of Champion City and it’s real-life superhero, Captain Amazing (Kinnear) who is bored to tears over fighting petty crimes and losing his advertisers in the process. His solution? His alter-ego, billionaire lawyer Lance Hunt, will release from prison super-villain Casanova Frankenstein (Rush) back into the populace JUST so he (Captain Amazing) can vanquish him again!
But our lesser heroes: Mr. Furious (Stiller), The Shoveler (Macy), and The Blue Raja (Anzaria) are constantly grumbling that THEY want to recognized for their “superpowers” as well. They don’t really have any. So when Captain Amazing gets captured by Frankenstein, the three heroes spring into action to rescue their brother in arms and….accidentally kill the Captain! Oops! Overhearing Frankenstein’s nefarious plans for unleashing a doomsday device, the guys recruit fellow superheroes The Bowler (Garafalo), The Spleen (Ruebens), and the Invisible Boy (Kel Mitchell). But Mr. Furious’ leadership is usurped by the mysterious Sphinx (Studi), who guides them (Yoda-style) into a new direction.
To further their efforts, they call upon a mad scientist named Dr. Heller (Tom Waits), who specializes in non-lethal weaponry, like “tornado-in-a-can” to equip them for their battle into Casanova’s fortress.
Mystery Men is an underplayed, wildly imaginative comedy that really sneaks up on you and makes you laugh despite the awkwardness of their situation. This is really Stiller’s movie all around with his Mr. Furious’ character being anything but that…furious. There are quiet scenes in the bars, diners, or poolsides where the heroes are just talking that are little gems to listen to. The other supporting actors are terrific and the set designs along with flashy costuming make this a genuine delight to watch.
**Editor’s Note** – One of the villains, “Big Tobacco”, is portrayed by my uncle, Jim Duke. He became an actor later in life, and this was probably his most significant role. He is now happily retired in Lake Havasu, AZ…