Despite the giddy, gory ridiculousness of Kick-Ass 2
, this summer's most violent yet least punishing comic-book movie, there's a kernel of ugly human truth at the core of the Kick-Ass
fantasy. In the first issue of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s Kick-Ass
comic, a high school twerp dons a wetsuit to clean up the streets. This white boy's first adventure: calling black graffiti taggers "homos," threatening them with fighting sticks, and getting his ass stomped in brutal detail the movies can't match. It's a reminder that the impulse toward costumed do-goodery isn't far removed from the impulses of the sons of bitches who argue that Trayvon Martin had it coming. The first Kick-Ass
flick tidied all that up. The taggers become carjackers, one white and one black, and they've previously mugged the costumed aggressor, so there's nothing complex or upsetting about the confrontation. Kick-Ass
the movie just asked us to get juiced on the wild vigilantism. Kick-Ass 2
doesn't ask for much more, but this time the juice gushes with impressive consistency. Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) throws in with a league of misfit crimefighters organized by Jim Carrey's Colonel Stars and Stripes, a gray-stubbled G.I. with a Jack Kirby jaw. With this crew, Kick-Ass takes the time to do the one thing all the other movie superheroes forgot to this year: save some people from problems that weren't a direct consequence of the existence of those superheroes. Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), meanwhile, deepens into a full character as she takes on puberty and high school. Her scenes are surprisingly tender. Plucking up the courage to hang with the mean girls, she's even more compelling than when she's playing the pixie avenger.