REVIEW: Kick-Ass [2010]

“I’m just a Dick in a wetsuit”

Can I get away with using a film’s one word hyphenate title as it’s succinct description? Frankly I don’t care what your answer is to that question because, no joke, Kick-Ass kicked ass. This is the epitome of comic book brought to reality. What the new wave of graphic novels contains is ultra-violence, witty banter, and stories that are more than just good guy versus bad. People look to Dark Knight as what a comic based film should be, but on further review, is it really? It might be the best film based on a comic, but not the best comic book movie. Nolan did an amazing job on his Batman films, but they are really just well told dramatic action thrillers with superhero characters as their cast. That pulpy geekdom was still missing due to its realism and dour aesthetic, that splash of fun Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s work has in spades. I was never once taken out of the action as I constantly waited to see what new craziness Dave Lizewski would get into over his head.

But Kick-Ass isn’t truly about its titular character; the main plot deals with an ex-cop who was framed and thrown in jail when he chose not to be on mobster Frank D’Amico’s payroll. Damon Macready helplessly had to hear about his wife’s inability to deal with being pregnant and about to have a child alone, soon devoting the rest of his time in prison to become a lethal killing machine, biding time until he can meet his daughter and enlist her into the life of revenge that consumes him. Everything after release leads to the moment when he can face D’Amico and retrieve his pound of flesh; knowing it won’t bring back his wife, but also accepting the fact it will surely make him happy. Seeing the fervor for which young Mindy takes to the life of weaponry and violence is a bit jarring, but then you remember it’s a comic. She is a fictional character with the skill and precision of an accomplished assassin. Looking about twelve years old only gives her more of an advantage—the innate quality to disarm any opponent before they even know a fight has begun.

While Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are the real heroes—well maybe antiheroes since they are killing and maiming without regard for the sanctity of life, despite the victims’ checkered pasts and affiliations—they are nothing without Dave’s creation of Kick-Ass, the phenomenon that allowed them to get out into the world and begin their quest, turning practice into action. A normal high schooler—the kind of kid that goes about his business unnoticed, besides an oft-mugging, with friends as irrelevant to the other students as himself—Dave decides one day that he’s had enough. Ordering a costume online and going out to find trouble commences the chain of events to follow. It’s not your run-of-the-mill superhero exposition, however, it is definitely as harsh and authentic of an origin story you’ll get. He’s an untrained geek who’s never been in a fight before because he’s too quick to give up whatever the bullies desire, so the outcome of his first ‘mission’ is soberly pitch-perfect. And the fact that each instance afterwards shows shades of that same failure, using him as the reason normal people don’t become superheroes, you are more willing to believe in the father/daughter duo as they are far from sane.

Along with the revenge story and the hyper-stylized action sequences to satisfy any fan looking for well-choreographed fight scenes, come some uniquely approachable characters. Vaughn said in an interview that he spent hours trying to find the right actor to play the film’s namesake, never thinking that a Brit with a fake American accent would be the one to do it. Aaron Johnson is absolutely fantastic in this role, playing the kid in way too deep to perfection. He is so awkward and nervous that he pretends to be gay in order to get close with the girl of his dreams, but even when wearing the costume he shows a false sense of courage only goes so far. Not the guy to run into a burning building from selflessness or have the stomach to commit murder without provocation, his inability to be super is crucial to the film’s success. The real psycho killers aren’t without their own human ticks either, though. Chloe Moretz’s Hit-Girl may be more mature and intelligent than her age reveals, yet she still keeps a sense of childish humor beneath that hardened exterior, asking for a cuddly puppy as a birthday gift. Nicolas Cage’s reaction to that joke is priceless too, as well as his portrayal of Big Daddy front to back. Becoming a vigilante was a necessity for him, but he does it well. Pulling a robotic William Shatner once the mask is on shows how detail-oriented he is, breaking up his words to not allow for speech pattern recognition.

Mark Strong’s string of villainy continues with D’Amico, allowing for some humor in his deadpan delivery when interacting with employees and his son. Being that Chris is played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, wanting nothing more than to be trusted with the ‘family business’, only adds to the whole tough guy Dad with an asthmatic dork as a son cliché. But that’s okay because it’s a comic book film meant to entertain, utilizing all the common tropes integrated with a real world environment. The juxtaposition of a little girl jumping, flipping, juggling knives, firing guns, and destroying any human being standing in her way is done for fun, not to spark controversy and enrage a prudish public who think their young children will want to follow suit. Kick-Ass is an R-rated film, and for good reason. This isn’t a kid’s movie; it’s an action flick full of carnage and tempo changing battles in close quarters with rock music blaring in the background. Moretz’s killer instinct is unrivaled and Cage too takes part in some well-orchestrated dances of death. There is teenage angst, familial tragedy—how great is Dave’s mother’s death—comedic friends, absurd eccentrics roaming about, and an effectively constructed story of crime, justice, and revenge. Throw in a bazooka and a jetpack, (admittedly one of the aspects preventing me from giving the movie a perfect score), and you’ll see this is pure, unadulterated, bloody fun. I can’t wait to see it again.

Kick-Ass 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

[1] Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) in KICK-ASS. Photo credit: Dan Smith
[2] Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, left) and Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong, right) in KICK-ASS. Photo credit: Dan Smith


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