Jeff Wadlow, 113 mins, 15

Nicholas Barber on Kick-Ass 2: Pantomime violence with an ethical edge

4.00

It could be called ‘Gouge-Eye 2’ or ‘Stab-Leg 2’, but this sequel is more moral than its prototype

Jim Carrey recently announced that he wouldn’t be publicising Kick-Ass 2, because, in the wake of the Sandy Hook shootings, he didn’t want to endorse such a violent film.

I think he’s mistaken. It’s true that Kick-Ass 2 is so violent that it might have been named “Gouge-Eye 2” or “Stab-Leg 2”. And it’s true that much of its violence features Carrey, who plays a punch-drunk Captain America wannabe called Colonel Stars & Stripes. But it’s far more moral than most action movies – and it’s certainly more moral than the first Kick-Ass instalment three years ago.

Both films begin by asking what would happen if an ordinary teenage schoolboy (Aaron Taylor- Johnson) decided to put on a costume and call himself a superhero, but the original Kick-Ass soon betrayed that premise. Its director, Matthew Vaughn, was too much in love with his show-offy camerawork and editing to stay in the real world.

The writer-director of the follow-up, Jeff Wadlow, keeps its tone under tighter control. Kick-Ass 2 may be a foul-mouthed knockabout comedy, but it engages with the ethics of being a fancy-dressed vigilante; it explores why costumed crime-fighting might appeal to alienated adolescents; and it examines how such oddball behaviour would affect society at large. It also keeps reiterating that violence has consequences. Its hero receives ass-kickings more often than he gives them, and he’s left bruised and bleeding as a result. Even the pint-sized Hit Girl (the terrific Chloë Grace Moretz) is forced to question whether beating up muggers is really the best way to pass one’s childhood, or whether going to a suburban high school might be a safer occupation (it’s a close call).

Compared with Man of Steel, which was happy to demolish densely populated neighbourhoods for the  sake of a fight scene, Kick-Ass 2 is practically a public service announcement. Another point in Wadlow’s favour is that, unlike the makers of such angst-fests as The Dark Knight and Iron Man 3, he acknowledges the fundamental silliness of the superhero conceit: one character backs out of an evening’s crime-busting because he has tickets for The Book of Mormon.

If only Kick-Ass 2 had left some of its slow and repetitive subplots on the cutting room floor, it might have been one of Carrey’s best films.

It’s a lot harder to defend 2 Guns (Baltasar Kormakur, 102 mins, 15 **), another action comedy adapted from a series of comics. It never threatens to be anything more than a laid-back, tongue-in-cheek, Tex-Mex crime caper, and for at least half of the running time, that doesn’t seem like a problem. Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg have delightful buddy-buddy chemistry as two bank robbers with hidden agendas. And for an hour or so, the plotting is so unpredictable and the banter so sparky that, despite the moseying pace, I was already hoping for a sequel (“2 Guns 2”? “4 Guns”?).

But you get the impression that, with the last half-hour approaching, someone chucked the script in the recycling bin and substituted its elegant twists with senseless carnage.The finale is a let’s-just-shoot- everything farrago, and the only reason that the good guys emerge triumphant is that they’re the good guys. If Jim Carrey is still taking pot shots at movie violence, this would be an ideal target.

It takes some temerity to make a raucous comedy about bridesmaids so soon after, well, Bridesmaids, but Bachelorette (Leslye Headland, 88 mins, 15 ****) doesn’t seem like a pale imitation of Kristen Wiig’s surprise megahit. It’s more like an evil twin. Closer in structure to The Hangover than Bridesmaids, it unfolds on the night before Rebel Wilson’s New York wedding. Three of her best friends from school have reunited for the event, but your immediate reaction is incredulity that they were ever her friends at all. Kirsten Dunst, Lizzy Caplan and Isla Fisher are more poisonous than a sackful of cobras.

It’s rare to see a comedy with three female leads, so it’s brave of Leslye Headland, the writer-director, to make them so vile. It’s impressive, too, that they’re despicable in their own distinct ways: Dunst is the brittle control freak, Fisher the air-headed party girl, Caplan the sardonic mess. But what’s even more impressive is that, having introduced such irredeemable monsters, Bachelorette redeems them. As they blunder around Manhattan in the small hours, trying to mend the wedding dress they’ve torn, Headland’s boldly bilious farce reveals enough about their histories, and about their shared sense of desperation, that we come to care for them. We stop wishing they’ll be wiped out by a meteor strike, anyway.

Credit is due not just to Headland’s carefully structured script, but also to the three tremendous central performances. Dunst has such ferocious intensity in the chaotic final scenes that you half-expect laser beams to fire out of her eyes.

 

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
    Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

    Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

    The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
    Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

    Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

    The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

    Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

    Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
    Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

    Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

    The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
    The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

    The Open 2014

    Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?