Day: November 2, 2011

Kick-Ass

2010

Universal Pictures/Lionsgate

Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Screenplay by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman

Produced by Adam Bohling, Brad Pitt, Tarquin Pack, David Reid, Kris Thykier and Matthew Vaughn

Based on the comic book written by Mark Millar and illustrated by John S. Romita, Jr.

Is an individual a superhero because they have powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men?  Or because they’re driven by passions, hurts and fears so spiritually painful that they have no choice but to put on a costume and seek vengeance?  Or do they have a need to help their fellow man and make the world a better place?  Maybe it’s simply because they want to KICK-ASS.

The movie KICK-ASS starts out as if it’s going to be an exploration of those themes and ideas.  Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a perfectly ordinary New York high school teenager with typical teenager problems: he’s picked on and robbed by bullies and girls ignore him.  His major interest in life is comic books and Dave becomes obsessed with why nobody in real life has ever tried to become a superhero.  His best friends Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters) tell him quite sensibly that it’s because if anybody ever did try to be a superhero in real life they’d most likely get their ass handed to them.

Despite this common sense advice, Dave throws together a costume and tries his hand at being a real life superhero.  The fact he has no powers or training in anything whatsoever does nothing to deter the plucky lad.   His first attempt has such a blackly humorous turn that even while I was laughing hysterically I was wincing.  Believe it or not, the outcome of the attempt does actually give Dave an edge of sorts in fights and he tries again, this time armed with a pair of nightsticks and being successful in fighting off three men walloping the piss out of one guy and taking quite a beating himself.  Naturally it ends up on YouTube and before you know it, New York has itself a real live superhero: Kick-Ass.

Soon, Kick-Ass has the goodwill of all New York and is a media sensation.  He’s also come to the attention of crime czar Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) who believes its Kick-Ass who’s been stealing his drug money and killing his dealers.  The real culprits are Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who have a personal score to settle with D’Amico and are determined to take him down by any means necessary.  Big Daddy and Hit Girl are much more suited for the superhero biz than Kick-Ass.  They’ve actually trained for this profession and are martial arts masters as well as marksmen of near superhuman accuracy.  And with the drug money they’ve been stealing from D’Amico they’re able to buy all kinds of neat toys.  They’re also conscienceless killers.

In the meantime, Dave has actually managed to begin a relationship with his dream girl, Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) and is considering giving up being Kick-Ass as things are becoming more complicated with his being involved in the war between D’Amico and Big Daddy.  But then a new superhero arrives on the scene, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and he’s got a hidden agenda of his own that will change the lives of everybody involved.

On the surface, KICK-ASS may resemble “Watchmen” in that the superheroes in the movie really aren’t super, if you know what I mean.  They’re more or less costumed martial artists.  Especially Kick-Ass who’s only superpower appears to be that he can survive beatings that would put professional fighters in the hospital for a month.  Especially Hit Girl who’s like a four foot tall Jet Li on crack when in combat.  But KICK-ASS has a really black and warped sense of humor it brings to the table, especially in the scenes with D’Amico and his gang.  A sense of humor that was lacking in “Watchmen”

But the sense of humor really doesn’t synch with the amazing action scenes which are extremely violent, shockingly brutal and downright vicious.  I think the movie makes the point that trying to be a real life superhero really isn’t a good idea in some of those scenes but it’s all negated by the really over-the-top final showdown which plays like a weird combination of John Woo and Wile E. Coyote.  And speaking of the final showdown I’m not entirely comfortable with the decision made by Dave/Kick-Ass.  It’s as if he throws away the values and ideals that made him want to become a superhero and therefore the movie isn’t about superheroes anymore and turns into a bloody revenge flick with costumed vigilantes.

The acting is very good in this one.  All of the actors look as if they’re having a great time with the material.  Especially Chloe Grace Moretz who walks off with the movie in her back pocket.   She’s got such acting confidence it’s awesome to watch her work.  She’s just that good.  Nicholas Cage surprisingly isn’t in the movie as much as you might think from the trailers and ads but his character is a pivotal one and the acting choice he makes while playing Big Daddy brought howls of laughter and claps of appreciation from the audience I saw the movie with.  And this is the first movie in a long time where Cage actually turns in a performance and doesn’t just fall back on doing Elvis.  Between KICK-ASS and “Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans” we just may be seeing a Nicholas Cage who’s starting to give a damn about his acting again.

Aaron Johnson is an actor I’m not familiar with but he brings a sweet Peter Parker-ish vibe to his character.  He is so unsuited to being a superhero it’s almost sad but there’s something about the way he continues on being Kick-Ass even after he quite graphically experiences the dangers and violence of the gig that makes you root for him anyway.  Clark Duke and Evan Peters are there strictly for comic relief and they do their jobs with intelligence, skill and as such get most of the movie’s biggest laughs.

So should you see KICK-ASS?  It’s not exactly what I would call a fun superhero movie but it is extremely well made and well acted.  It makes for a good Saturday night double feature with “Watchmen” The folks who worked on this movie didn’t insult my intelligence and I appreciate that.  Netflix and enjoy.

117 minutes

Rated R: For graphic language and violence.  And I do mean graphic with a capital G.  Just because it’s got a bunch of people jumping around in costumes and looking they’re having fun don’t think this is made for the kiddies.  This is a movie made for adults.