Kick-Ass – Review


The title sums up this movie perfectly.

From page to screen sounds like an ideal concept. You take a published work, be it fiction or non-fiction, comic or novel, and adapt it to screen. But what if the movie is in development at the same time the comic is written? Superhero movies based on a character like Batman or a team like X-Men are from long-standing properties with a rich history. With Kick-Ass, the movie was already in production by the time issue #3 hit newsstands (by issue #5 the film was completed). Its arrival in theatres comes at a time where the superhero genre is at unprecedented heights. Part of the attraction that comes with a project like Kick-Ass is that it mocks the conventions of superheroes while offering a refreshing take on just what it takes to be one. Full of energy and juvenile humor, this action-comedy has exemplary style points. And it is one of the best film-going experiences of 2010.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is your ordinary teenager. He’s not a jock, or a geek, or a gamer or a basket case. He’s just Dave: a guy that wouldn’t be sitting at the cool kids’ table or spending detention with the breakfast club. He’s a fan of comic books and shares his hobby with two friends: Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters). Like most high school boys, his hormones are raging, but his only release is alone in his bedroom. A box of Kleenex nearby. Dave would like nothing better than to obtain the love and affection – hell, just a friendly “Hey, how was your weekend?” would work – of Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), the popular chick, but he’s realistic enough to know she’s out of his league.

Then one day, killing time at a comic book store, Dave proposes a question to his two buds: “How come nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero?” It seems so easy that he wonders why no comic book fan has ever done it before. Be like Batman, who has no superpowers, but who fights crime with gadgets and detective work. Still obsessing over the idea Dave buys a green-and-yellow scuba suit and comes up with a name for his alter-ego: Kick-Ass. After a bad crime-fighting initiation that leaves him stabbed and then hit by a moving car, Dave convalesces in the hospital – his body fitted with so much metal it would make Wolverine jealous. His return as a crime-fighter is more successful, as he fends off some baddies this time with onlookers with camera phones taping the melee. Once the video goes viral on YouTube, Kick-Ass is a sensation, making vigilante justice in vogue. Soon Kick-Ass discovers that he’s not the only vigilante in town. The father-and-daughter team of Damon and Mindy Macready (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz) love sharing cups of hot chocolate and marshmallows while doing the typical father-daughter bonding, but as Big Daddy and Hit Girl they dispense justice in unflinching fashion and the bodies keep piling up.

Having only a passing knowledge of the comic, the best way to describe the experience is “Spider-Man with an edge.” The film acts as a satire of the genre with Dave Lizewski in the mold of Peter Parker. Big Daddy is Batman-inspired. And Hit Girl is in a class all by herself. This eighth-grader is deadly with a knife, great with a gun, but also takes the brunt of a vicious beating in the finale. She takes it in stride, though, with a middle-finger attitude and the mouth of a sailor.

Although the film is named after the titular character, Kick-Ass is definitely the weakest vigilante of the bunch. And yet his popularity grows because of his visibility; he’s on the Internet, TV, has T-shirts with his name on it and a comic book forthcoming. Big Daddy and Hit Girl have an ulterior motive that defines their brand of vigilantism. Kick-Ass fights with reckless abandon that makes him more susceptible to injury and more likely to fail.

Kick-Ass marks the third directorial effort for Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) and it is by far his most elaborate. It’s a superhero movie that’s heavy on hyper-violent action set pieces, including one scene reminiscent of the gunkata sequence in Equilibrium. While the elaborate action is memorable, it is the dark, sadistic wit that permeates the entire film from start to finish. Some may find the language obscene – what an eleven-year-old can’t say “cunts”? – but because the movie wasn’t financed by a studio Vaughn had complete control. I can only imagine how much a studio would have neutered the smart-alecky language and the concept overall.

Nicolas Cage is the big name attached to the cast, but is mostly in a supporting role. A huge comic book fan, Cage is clearly having fun here as a Batman-type character. His Big Daddy has more bravado than The Dark Knight, employing shotguns instead of Batarangs.

The rest of the cast includes Aaron Johnson, a British actor getting some major exposure as Kick-Ass; Christopher Mintz-Plasse tries his best to drop the McLovin’ moniker from Superbad as Red Mist; and then there’s Mark Strong, who is quickly becoming this generation’s Alan Rickman with all the villainous roles he’s been playing in recent years. He plays the main bad guy and he’s given more than enough time to ham it up on screen. But the real star is Chloe Moretz. As Hit Girl, her salty language and the violence she unspools will no doubt make her a fan favorite.

In 2005 family issues reportedly led Matthew Vaughn to withdraw himself of his directing commitments before shooting could commence on X-Men: The Last Stand. Had the issues not have occurred, it would have been his first opportunity to helm a comic-book film. In 2010 he has finally achieved that dream. It may not be the one he had set out to make five years ago, but that’s probably a good thing. Kick-Ass is the best superhero movie since the bar was set with The Dark Knight. And it’s one of the few films that definitely live up to its title. Kick-Ass is exactly that.

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Notable Cast: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage
Writer(s): Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman, based on the comic book series by Mark Millar

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