review round-up

Mean Girls and Rape Scenes: What the Critics Are Saying About Kick-Ass 2

Photo: Universal Pictures

The reviews for Kick-Ass 2 are a mixed bag: Some critics reject the movie’s ultra violence, while some find it subversive. Some say it’s better than the original, others claim it’s worse. One thing everyone agrees on, though, is that Chloe Moretz’s Hit Girl enters the cliquish world of queen bees and wannabes. Here’s what the critics are saying:

How does it stand up to the first one?
“Not only is its successor played-out, but it revels in carnage while lacking the visual style and gleeful humor of the original.” —USA Today

“Like most second chapters in comic-book series, Kick-Ass 2 is better than its predecessor, though there was really no place to go but up.” —AV Club

Kick-Ass 2 is a step down.” —The Oregonian

“Vaughn is producing this time, with Cry_Wolf’s Jeff Wadlow directing, and while Kick-Ass 2 does a decent job of replicating the look and feel of the original (as well as that of the Millar comics), it doesn’t have the same urgency.” —New York

“The sequel is better in every way except one: surprise.” —Village Voice

“In the annals of sequeldom, Kick-Ass 2 has to be one of the lamest follow-ups ever.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“What seemed edgy and bold in Kick-Ass is now routine and old-hat. The first movie was a brash satire on formulaic comic-book movies — exactly the sort of picture the sequel turns out to be.” —Miami Herald

KA2, written and directed by the little-known Jeff Wadlow, taking over for Matthew Vaughn, is less grounded than the delightful original, more hectic and blaring — a cinematic shock jock who needs to push your buttons.” —New York Post

“The sequel retains the original’s blithely manipulative tone, and writer-director Jeff Wadlow barely pads this irritating continuation with new or, heaven forbid, original ideas.” —Slant

Kick-Ass 2 improves on its 2010 predecessor in at least one respect: It doesn’t make the mistake of trying to pass off its bone-crunching brutality as something shocking or subversive.” —Variety

“Now, in writer/director Jeff Wadlow’s witless and unnecessary sequel, all of those assets have been replaced with tone-deaf jokes and cringe-inducing carnage.” —EW

“And while the original revelled in exploring the pathetic, rib-cracking realities of street-level superhero-ing, its sequel too often drifts into the staples its predecessor mocked (training montages and dead-parent-inspired character growth both get a look in).” —Total Film

This rape scene: Is it played for laughs?
“So is the scene of attempted rape, played for laughs and focusing on Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s self-made supervillain, who tries but fails to assault the vigilante (Lindy Booth) who calls herself ‘Night Bitch.’ (Honestly, this movie is rank.)” —Chicago Tribune

“There’s also an attempted rape that’s played for laughs when the bad guy can’t get an erection — a tough scene to watch, even for those of us generally able to go with the Kick-Ass films’ ethos.” New York

“As his name suggests, this creep’s agenda is not PG-rated: In one scene, he rapes someone close to Kick-Ass, an event made more disturbing by the laughs the script hopes to get from it.” —The Hollywood Reporter

” … one noxious scene from the comic series, a sexual assault, is rewritten into a crowd-pleasing dick joke, almost as if Wadlow (also the screenwriter) were weighing in on that argument Lindy West started at Jezebel: Can rape ever be funny?” —Village Voice

“What’s left onscreen frequently feels callous and dehumanized, whether it’s the sight of a freakishly ripped, ex-KGB psychopath named Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) turning a lawnmower on a couple of cops, or a scene that turns an implied rape into a queasy joke. Played for laughs that never quite arrive, these moments don’t sit well with the script’s attempts to say something genuinely thoughtful about the plight of fatherless kids … ” Variety

“As she mocks him, he turns away and desperately tries to stimulate his uncooperative penis; finally, he whines that he’s just not in the mood right now. It’s sort of a funny moment, a conscious satirical defanging of the “women in refrigerators” comic trope, in which heroes’ love interests are raped, mutilated, or killed to give the hero a little cheap motivating angst. Except that then, the villain tells his minion to viciously beat the girl instead.” —The Dissolve

“Wadlow switches the character who gets attacked from Kick-Ass’ high school-age girlfriend to the adult female character known as Night Bitch. Wadlow also attempts to diffuse the scene with humor by having Mintz-Plasse’s character unable to, er, perform. Transforming a rape scene into a sex joke makes an ugly moment into a tacky one and would seem the definition of not getting it.” —L.A. Times

How Is Your Throat?
“When a butch Russian baddie (Olga Kurkulina) kills a squadron of cops, the larkish inventiveness of their deaths — ooh, that one got a lawnmower to the head! — sticks in your throat. Coarseness sells, I guess, but does it have to be this smug?” —Boston Globe

“It’s rambunctiously amusing but the laughs clot in your throat.” —Tampa Bay Times

Mean Girls!
“While Mindy tries to make friends with a clique of popular mean girls swooning over boy bands and shopping sprees, Dave searches for new partners in crime-fighting … ” —EW

“When prototypical superficial mean girl Brooke (Claudia Lee) brags about the wonders of being a popular high-schooler, all the advantages she cites could apply to being a superhero as well: the tight outfits, the peer worship, the sense of strength and independence.” —The Dissolve

“When the meanest girls in high school bully Mindy, aka Hit Girl (the bullying here is constant and hammering), she pulls out her late father’s ‘sick stick,’ which causes instantaneous and simultaneous projectile-vomiting and projectile-diarrhea, and that is meant to be really sick, as in cool.” Chicago Tribune

“But she’s now also a teenage girl, and, in an effort to better fit in at school, she attempts to give up crime fighting, try out for the cheerleading squad, and befriend a Heathers-like clique of rich, mean girls.” —New York

“Moretz’s Mindy Macready enters a familiar teen-pic template: She’s introduced to the privileges of popularity only to be humiliated by mean girls bent on protecting their turf.” —The Hollywood Reporter

“Hit Girl is now in high school, where she comes up against mean girls.” —New York Times

“Hit-Girl, meanwhile, deepens into a full character as she takes on puberty and high school, facing mean girls, drill-team tryouts, a first date, and her promise to her adoptive father that she’ll try to live a normal life.” —Village Voice

“Just to complete the trifecta, there’s icky slapstick and ickier sentimentality as Hit-Girl tries to mainstream into ‘normal’ high school life, leading to a revenge scene where her cartoonish mean-girl tormentors spew vomit and diarrhea.” —Boston Globe

“In essence, they both seek and find (unsteady) acceptance, as she joins up with a triptych of bitchy cheerleader types — an unacknowledged rip-off of Mean Girls — and Kick-Ass finds himself the new star in a league of masked do-gooders … ” —Slant

“Courted, then deceived, by a small group of mean girls, she exacts her revenge with a weapon that triggers gallons of projectile vomit and other emissions. Did this suddenly become an Adam Sandler movie?” —USA Today

“Meanwhile Mindy, after vowing to Marcus that she would leave her Hit-Girl persona behind, is battling the fiercest opponents of her career: high school Mean Girls whose cliques and casual cruelties are far more lethal than anything she’s encountered.” —Washington Post

“Of all the movies self-consciously referenced by this pulp-savvy series, who knew that Mean Girls would yield the most wickedly funny results?” —Variety

“Mindy’s fun, super-bitchy Mean Girls-esque mini-adventure promises subversive smarts, but culminates with all the comedic originality and intellectual depth of a Grown Ups fart gag.” —Total Film

“The adventures of Hit-Girl as a regular person are far more compelling than those of Kick-Ass as a superhero. (Though even her story line is marred by a cheap, unnecessary joke in which a mean girl is made to evacuate her body from both ends at once.)” —L.A. Times

“Her rivalry with the mean girls culminates in a quintessentially Millar money shot.” —AV Club

“The actress even gets her own subplot recounting her attempts to fit in at high school and the mean girls standing in her way. The outrageous resolution of that conflict feels like a warm-up to her lead performance in the Carrie remake due this fall.” —Miami Herald

Okay, but how do you really feel?
“It’s a mean-spirited, ultra-violent action-comedy with the emotional maturity of an arrested 12-year-old and the ethical compass of a turnip.” —Boston Globe

Kick-Ass 2 Review Roundup: Rape and Mean Girls