‘Kick-Ass 2' Reviews: With Rape Jokes and Gun Play, Does the Superhero Sequel Go Too Far?

'Kick-Ass 2' Reviews: With Rape Jokes and Gun Play, Does the Superhero Sequel Go Too Far?

Jim Carrey has denounced the film, what do critics think?

The teenage vigilantes are back to slice and dice their way through a new batch of brutal criminals, to say nothing of a fresh crop of nasty high school bullies, in "Kick-Ass 2."

As expected, the superhero sequel applies a liberal amount of blood and four-letter words to the proceedings. Indeed, the level of violence is so intense that one of the film's stars, Jim Carrey, denounced the movie months before its release.

With all due respect to Ace Ventura, critics seemed more bored than shocked by the on-screen carnage. "Kick-Ass 2" eked out a meager 39 percent "rotten" rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Many top reviewers have yet to weigh in, so it is possible that the critical consensus could head north or south over the next 24 hours.

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The film hits theaters on Friday and brings back original stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloë Grace Moretz for a new story that finds Kick-Ass and Hit Girl battling a super-villain with an unprintable name that brings together mothers and fornication.

In a savage review, TheWrap's Alonso Duralde implied the film suffered from a spastic and recycled approach to material that at least felt transgressive the first time around. He wrote that Jeff Wadlow (“Never Back Down”), stepping into the director chair in place of the first film's helmer Matthew Vaughn, seemed to suffer from a case of ADHD.

"R-rated mayhem ensues, with skulls splattering open amidst the wisecracks, but the blend of ultra-violence and dark humor feels forced and inorganic this time around," Duralde wrote.

Also read: Jim Carrey 'Cannot Support' Violence in 'Kick-Ass 2' After Newtown Shootings

That no-holds barred assessment is gentler than Ty Burr's review in the Boston Globe. Burr hated the film, branding it coarse, smug and ugly. He doesn't seem to be keeping his fingers crossed for a trilogy.

"A witless, mean-spirited sequel, 'Kick-Ass 2' has the emotional maturity of an arrested 12-year-old and the ethical compass of a turnip," Burr wrote.

Tony Hicks of the San Jose Mercury News also appeared troubled by the film's approach to violence. He wrote that "Kick-Ass 2" had trouble making up its mind if it wanted to send up action films or get in the muck with them. The whole enterprise suffered from the taste and refinement that one associates with adolescence, he implied.

"There are some questionable attempts at appealing to the 14-year-old boys in the audience: projectile vomiting, a rape joke, extreme language," Hicks wrote. "Then again, the whole movie could be considered a questionable attempt at appealing to 14-year-old boys, as the delightful irony of the first 'Kick-Ass' was apparently exhausted before the sequel was made."

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Some jokes land, Time Out's Cath Clarke wrote, but the film isn't as zesty or entertaining as the original. Although Clark did not seem troubled by the blood-letting, she found the film's treatment of sexuality to be troubling.

"'Kick-Ass 2’ notches it up with an offensive rape joke (man tries to rape woman, can’t get it up)," Clark wrote. "Okay, he’s the butt of the joke, but in a film whose heroine is a 15-year-old girl beating up a bunch of bad dudes, that’s not just bad taste – it leaves a bad taste."

Variety's Justin Chang said the film is wildly uneven, but seemed to enjoy a sub-plot that finds Moretz's Hit Girl struggling to fit in at school.

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"It’s a sharp, satisfying little story of bullying and comeuppance that works as well as it does on the strength of Moretz’s terrific performance," Chang wrote. "The actress was 15 at the time of production, old enough to ditch the pigtails and most of the uneasy child-exploitation issues that greeted the first film, which is all to the good of a character who feels less gimmicky and more fully developed this time around."

But it was the Village Voice's Alan Scherstuhl who broke from the pack by declaring "Kick-Ass 2" to be an improvement on the original.

"The most welcome change is the tone,"  Scherstuhl wrote. "Wadlow has decided he's making a straight-up comedy, and he demonstrates a knack for it. There's a lightness even to the beatdowns and head-shots, a punchline timing on the stabbings and severed limbs, and the good sense to hustle through the dark material setting up the climax–a rumble, West Side Story-style, except with a shark tank and a heroine named Night Bitch."