IN "KICK-ASS 2," tween girl superhero Hit-Girl agrees to take on a wannabe apprentice under the condition that he'll agree to do anything she wants.
And what she wants can be summed up in two words.
And that, right there, is why this concept, even when it more or less worked in the original, has always made me queasy.
The entire movie seemed constructed so that filmmakers could cross into some new transgressive space - showing an adult male throwing R-rated punches at the face of a young girl.
And why is that image, in the original "Kick-Ass," considered candy-colored fun? Because it operates at such an obvious remove from reality, because the character gives as good as she gets and thus becomes the heroine in an empowerment story. (The original was at least written by a woman.)
But there was something else, too, and the sequel comes clean about it: It's OK to show the girl being pummeled in the face (and it's OK to get off on it) because deep down, that's what she wants.
Coincidentally, the preferred excuse of child abusers everywhere.
So, as far as I'm concerned, it's "check please" for this franchise.
For those who soldier on, know that "Kick-Ass 2" finds Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) semiretired and involved in a "Mean Girls" situation at high school.
Self-styled superhero pal Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is now part of a gang of self-styled superheroes, and Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has decided to become a super-villain, gathering costumed creeps around him, including a female Ivan Drago who kills cops with lawn mowers.
Such hyper-violence is meant to be laughed at, and "Kick-Ass" is meant to be edgy and uncomfortable, straddling a weird space between a movie that satirizes superhero wish fulfillment and panders to it.
It's a difficult tone to maintain, and writer-director Jeff Wadlow often loses his way. And when that happens, the "jokes" about missing children and rape fall flat - too many layers of irony, or not enough.
Of course, "Kick-Ass 2" also exists to elicit clucking disapproval from squares.
In this case, I'm happy to oblige.