The original Kick-Ass was a tart, snarky surprise, a send-up of revenge movies and superhero flicks that showed a lot of affection for both genres and had some surprisingly good performances from its cast. Kick-Ass 2 is basically the same, but with a lot more coasting.
If you’ve read the comics (or have seen the first movie), you know the plot, but in brief: Kick-Ass, having bumped off a Mafia boss with a rocket launcher in the first movie, now has to deal with his enraged and unhinged son, who is really just as much of a dork and a loser as Kick-Ass. It turns out that, yes, putting a bunch of people in funny outfits and giving them weapons is a bad idea in terms of the health and safety of both themselves and others. The original made that the start of the gag; here, it’s the whole gag.
The main problem is that the sequel relentlessly hits the same story beats as the original, right down to repeating the bullet-proof vest gag. The cast does their best; John Leguizamo’s job is to basically be the guy who points out how insane everybody else in the movie is acting, and he plays that for all it’s worth. Chloe Moretz actually finds a lot of character depth in Hit-Girl, who, as you may have guessed, is not adjusting to being a pretty pink princess at all well; she’s still solving her problems with profanity and/or violence, which often lead to the movie’s best jokes. Christopher Mintz-Plasse might be the MVP of the movie, though, simply because he makes his character’s sociopathy and… impracticality incredibly funny instead of off-putting. He literally can’t think outside supervillain cliches.
The mayhem on display is incredibly amusing, when the movie gets going, but it coasts a little too much on the gore. Jeff Wadlow, mostly known for B-movies like Cry_Wolf and Never Back Down, is a capable director of action, but this is also a comedy, and he’s a bit stiff and uncomfortable when it comes to comedy, a sharp contrast to the effortless wit of Matthew Vaughn. Often if the movie is funny it’s because of the actors finding the joke. And, again, you’re relentlessly comparing the sequel to the first one, because it relentlessly reminds you that, hey, it’s a sequel! Remember the first one? Here’s a joke from the first one, but turned around!
In short, it’s a disappointing retread, and when it ends on a sequel hook, with Kick-Ass grimly determined to become a real superhero no less, it feels less like a promise and more like an insulting assumption. There’s an opening, here, to send up superhero movies and the tropes that drive them: Kick-Ass 2 is too busy assuming it can coast to bother.