Somewhere along the way, McLovin' took a wrong turn.

Somewhere along the way, McLovin’ took a wrong turn.

There is no way to justify the existence of Kick-Ass 2 from a financial perspective. The first Kick-Ass didn’t reach US$50 million at the box-office and barely got its budget back thanks to international sales. However, comic-book mastermind Mark Millar has enough clout in Hollywood these days to get a sequel done… As long as it’s on the cheap.

Kick-Ass 2 finds the protagonists trying to reinvent themselves. While Dave looks to improve Kick-Ass’ limited skills by teaming up with other superhero-wannabes, Mindy has retired as Hit Girl and is considering joining the most popular clique at school. Unbeknownst to them, Chris D’Amico -aka Red Mist- is preparing for revenge. Under the guise of the Mother Fucker (the world’s first super villain), D’Amico puts together a team of sadistic criminals with one goal in mind: Make Kick-Ass pay for killing D’Amico’s Mafioso dad.

At first sight, it seems like pretty light entertainment (for the genre). But Kick-Ass 2 packs a couple of surprises. For most of its length, it mirrors the original movie, particularly the toxicity of certain father-son dynamics: Following your dad’s steps is a surefire way to lose your mind. The movie also goes out of its way to underline the consequences of the heroes’ actions: Is Kick-Ass helping or hurting the city? His presence often seems to encourage crime more than repel it.

Kick-Ass 2 is violent, no doubt about it, but most of its brutality triggers a response and an upshot. Compared to the denouements of Man of Steel and Star Trek Into Darkness (thousands of collateral casualties nobody addresses), this could be considered progress.

The movie has plenty of issues: Kick-Ass alter-ego, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is far less interesting than Mindy McCready/Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). It doesn’t help that Moretz is a much more vivacious presence on screen. Jim Carrey is neither funny nor a major force in the film. His refusal to promote Kick-Ass 2 feels more like a favor to the film than a demerit.

A particularly troublesome scene involves the threat of sexual violence against a teenager. It’s much tamer than the original material, but it’s a jarring sequence nonetheless. It taints the film with certain unearned sordidness, and it makes you wonder where entertainment ends and exploitation begins. Definitely a debate a late summer romp like Kick-Ass 2 is not qualified to participate.

Three prairie… no, two and a half. Ok, three prairie dogs.