• I'm scratching my head as to what "Kick-Ass 2" is for. Was it supposed to be a straight-up exploitation film? Perhaps a send-up of the exploitation film movement, along the lines of "Death Proof"? Some sort of social commentary on how the police have surrendered the streets in some places and allowed a kind of vigilantism to move in and fill the void? Maybe it was supposed to be something else altogether... I recall thinking its predecessor, a 2010 effort directed by Matthew Vaughn, just about deserved the passing grade, but this sequel has completely misunderstood why that film worked to the extent that it did and has even enriched its flaws to create what is, I think, a bit of a mess.

    "Kick-Ass 2" covers the exploits of two returning protagonists, an ordinary young man and an ordinary young girl, as they battle the elements in modern New York City. If, like me, you couldn't exactly remember what had happened at the culmination of the first film, the original Kick-Ass, a green jumpsuit clad kid named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is, we find out, bored after having given up the superhero game and wants back in. His partner in anti-crime, Hit-Girl, otherwise known as Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz), meanwhile grieves the demise of her father, whose death at the end of the last film, I have to admit, I had completely forgotten about, and carries on with her alternate life behind the back a policeman who now acts as her guardian. One thing leads to another and Lizewski winds up, albeit out of fighting shape, finding Hit-Girl to climb back into the world.

    But against whom might they have their quarrel? Enter Chris D'Amico, another character barely out of their teenaged years who is played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse and who, after losing his mother in a tanning bed accident, finds himself both orphaned and enraged enough to become a super-villain. There is an odd psychoanalytical moment whereby he dons a leather outfit he finds amidst his recently dearly-deceased possessions and decides, therefore, on calling himself 'The Mother****er'. Ha Ha Ha.

    "Kick-Ass 2" is certainly thrown together with a fair amount of raw energy, but it doesn't understand that, ultimately, restraint in cinema is crucial to a film's effect on an audience, irrespective of what the project is or what the approach to a subject matter it might be taking on. There are several sequences in the film, each of them action scenes, which, if I described them individually, might sound quite striking, but do not actually amount to a sum total of anything at all when strung together but for how the project is handled.

    Where director Jeff Wadlow missteps is, I think, in his thinking that bigger is better which, when executed off the back of material such as this, can implode catastrophically when it doesn't come off - here, it is the peppering of the film with an array of not only good-guys, but villains as well, to create a kind of chaos which Vaughn almost always had on a leash. It is burning proof, if such a thing was even needed, that "Jaws" did not need three sharks during its finale to work, and indeed got by quite handsomely with just the one.

    Character-wise, Lizewski is so much weaker here than before; driven not by a burning desire to rid the streets of crime or by an anger which pushes him to the brink of despair that he knows full well he will die if he doesn't make a jump from one rooftop to another during his self-imposed training, but by nothing at all - merely being bored of what's on the television. Having suited himself back up, he falls in with a group of people who call themselves Justice for All, who are all essentially doing the same thing, but an actual adult leads the team and does most of the fighting anyway. So what?

    Later on, about half-way through, there is an absurd interlude involving Hit-Girl whereby her strand depicts her doing the opposite to Lizewski and is forced away from fighting crime to become 'normal' again: going to school, having sleepovers and talking girly to girly girls. To what avail is any of this? Because there isn't really enough in the opening two acts, and because the second unit material takes precedence, there is nothing really there in terms of heart to propel anything into a big dénouement.

    Wadlow's tone is, again, scatter-shot at best; pausing for these moments of real tenderness and contemplation in-between bulldozing the frame with explosions; instants of terrific violence and the profanity which might sound grown up, but really isn't. Several of the characters in the film are, at once, grieving for the loss of fathers; grieving for the loss of mothers; experiencing breakups and fondness for new people and living born-again existences, but where does any of it actually stand up to be counted?

    The film is at its sharpest, not when it is depicting its characters driving blades into the bodies of others, but when it sends the super-hero genre up: villains making up fake backstories because they think they need them, subversions of evil lairs for climactic showdowns, the daft names comic book characters have and where they come from in the first place. But, ultimately, this is the sort of film that passes between hands in the school playground. You know the kinds of films: somebody's bigger brother, who's old enough and already left school, has bought it on DVD, but it's made its way through one means or another into lesser circles. Sooner or later, word gets around and everybody wants a weekend to watch it. For the rest of us, we can only watch on, sometimes with our mouth agape, in either stunned awe or offence, at what is unfolding in front of us, hoping we'll pick a better film to watch next time.