Warning: This piece contains spoilers about "Kick-Ass 2."
There's a scene in the middle of Kick-Ass 2 that involves 10 NYPD officers being relentlessly slaughtered. Two of them are blown up by a propane tank, two of them are killed by the blades of a lawnmower, and the other four are killed by similar means. I suspect that this is the part of the movie where Jim Carrey, while watching "Kick-Ass 2" for the first time, thought to himself, Nope. I'm out.
We don't know that for sure, of course, because Carrey isn't doing press to promote Kick-Ass 2. In June, Carrey tweeted, "I did Kickass a month b4 Sandy Hook and now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence ... my apologies to others involve [sic] with the film. I am not ashamed of it but recent events have caused a change in my heart." Having now seen Kick-Ass 2, Carrey probably made the right decision.
Like a lot of people, the Sandy Hook shootings had a large effect on Carrey. He's since been extremely vocal on the issue of gun control and violence. Once Carrey went "all in" on this topic, there was really no turning back. He certainly can't preach to people about how guns are bad -- even penning a song about Charlton Heston's now infamous "cold dead hand" line -- then tell people to go see a movie with extreme gun violence. I am not saying that movie violence and real violence have any correlation (I am not a scientist); I'm just trying to look at this from Carrey's unique perspective.
Carrey's Kick-Ass 2 co-star Chloe Grace Moretz was recently quoted as saying, "If you are that easily swayed, you might see The Silence of the Lambs and think you are a serial killer." That's fine and all, but the violence in Kick-Ass 2 is just so ugly and mean spirited compared to that movie, which won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Case in point: There's an almost-rape scene in "Kick-Ass 2" that's played for laughs. A male character is going to rape a female character, except that the male character is unable to get an erection and thus the rape never happens. (Note: In the source material, the female character actually is raped.) So, yes, Carrey has every right to take a step back from ugly material.
Carrey's face is featured prominently on the Kick-Ass 2 poster, yet Carrey's screen time as Colonel Stars and Stripes is surprisingly short. (In other words: If you are seeing this movie only because you are interested in Carrey's role, you are going to be very, very disappointed.) He appearance is so brief, in fact, that if Carrey was only aware of the scenes he filmed, I could definitely envision a scenario where he was blindsided by the amount of violence in the rest of the movie. (For what it's worth, in response to Carrey's tweets back in June, "Kick-Ass" creator Mark Millar wrote that nothing in the film "wasn't in the screenplay eighteen months ago.")
To be fair: It's not as if Carrey's character is a saint. Colonel Stars and Stripes is, like pretty much everyone else in the Kick-Ass movies, a vigilante dressed in a superhero costume. Colonel Star and Stripes was a former mob enforcer who became a born-again Christian, and then decided to fight crime. In Carrey's only true action scene, he hits a few guys over the head with a wooden stick, admonishes a few people for using foul language, then lets his German Shepherd chew on an accused sex slave trafficker's penis. After all of this, Carrey's character holds a gun to this same man's head, but we later find out that the gun he uses is never loaded.
So, yes, even if Carrey didn't know the true level of violence or the flippant tone of the film, he did know there was some violence. But the fact is that Carrey has become such a champion of gun control, he kind of painted himself into a corner. People will forget about Kick-Ass 2; people wouldn't forget Carrey's perceived hypocrisy. The issue of gun control obviously means something to Carrey -- certainly a lot more than the 10 minutes of screen time he has in (what is in my opinion) a bad August movie that no one will remember in a month.
Full disclosure: I actively despised Kick-Ass 2. The film's tone is schizophrenic, jumping from deaths that are played for laughs to deaths that we're supposed to care about, then back again. Seriously: pick one. Also: A rape scene played for laughs is not funny. I have no idea why anyone in his right mind would include that in the final film. (For more on this issue, check out this insightful piece by CinemaBlend's Kristy Puchko.)
Kick-Ass 2 is a grim, grim movie.
Perhaps it was that afterthought scene, in which 10 NYPD officers are slaughtered, that occurs so close to a hilarious scene, in which high school girls vomit and defecate at the same time. (I would have liked to have been in the writers' room as the "we have them puke" faction battled it out with the "we have them poop" faction, only to end in tragic compromise.) Perhaps it was the attempted rape played for humor. Whatever the reason, Carrey wasn't going to double down his reputation on Kick-Ass 2. Now I see why.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.