Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Being Kicked in the Rear an Oddly Pleasant Feeling


About a week ago there was a story of a robbery that briefly dominated the various media outlets. A 79 year-old man was mugged by two young thugs on the local subway while the majority of the other passengers watched. Although one individual did bring the mugging to the attention of transit officials, much of the talk in the media focused on why no one else tried to help the man, or even call the cops. Depending on which side you listen to, either you believe there was nothing the passengers could do as it all happened so fast; or you believe that that the passengers only cared about their own safety. So the question then becomes: what would you do in that situation?

This is the exact question that Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) poses to the audience in the film Kick-Ass, though, cynically, he already knows what the answer will be. Dave, an avid comic book reader, questions why no one has ever attempted to be a real-life superhero. Dave knows that being a hero is not about having special abilities but rather the determination to want to help others. After being mugged on the way home Lizewski decides to create an alter-ego named Kick-Ass; and takes to the streets with his own brand of justice. Kick-Ass soon realizes that being a real-life superhero is far more dangerous than he ever imagined. Kick-Ass’ lack of experience shows when he comes across the efficient father and daughter superhero team of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chole Moretz). As Kick-Ass gains more publicity another hero, the mysterious Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), emerges into Kick-Ass’ life. Is the Red Mist friend or foe? Also what ties does Red Mist have to a local gangster, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong)?

Based on the comic by Mark Millar, Kick-Ass is one of those films that I have hard time recommending to anyone outside of comic book lovers, hardcore cinephiles, or those with a high tolerance for onscreen violence. Even then I am pretty sure there will be people in those groups who will hate this film. Besides being excessively violent, the overall execution is uneven on every level. Similar to Millar’s last film adaptation, Wanted, the characters in Kick-Ass never plays by the rules that the picture establishes. For example, we are told Kick-Ass cannot feel physical pain, yet this only seems to apply in certain situations. He can withstand a vicious beating from a D’Amico’s men but gets easily knocked out by the wimpy Red Mist.

A lot of the inconsistencies in the film are a result of the sloppy script. Characters are constantly flipping personalities based on the given situation. On minute Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) would do anything to break off her friendship/relationship with a drug dealer, yet later she is crying because she never wanted that same drug dealer to get hurt. It is maddening moments like this that will make you question why you are even bothering to watch the film but stick with it. Despite its many flaws, Kick-Ass turns out to be a fun, albeit twisted, hodgepodge of a film.

The key to enjoying Kick-Ass is to look at it as outlandish pop culture fare. The film tries hard to break every taboo in the book but it never has the impact of say A Clockwork Orange. Partly because director Matthew Vaughn has so much fun running around with his middle fingers up in the air that he forgets what caused him to do so in the first place. Kick-Ass will not stand the test of time like other comic book flicks, but it does have enough moments to raise it far above the ranks of Tank Girl and Daredevil. The best moments come from the most controversial characters in the whole picture, Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

It becomes evident early on that the most interesting aspect of the plot is not Dave’s/Kick-Ass’ plight to be a hero; but rather the father/daughter duo looking for revenge. To be honest, the film probably would have been better without Kick-Ass or Red Mist at all. As they merely serve as buffers for the darker, and more disturbing, content in the film. Both Cage and Moretz are exceptionally good in this film. Nicolas Cage gives a hilarious Adam West’s 1960’s style performance as Big Daddy. In the scenes with Moretz he tows the fine line between loving father and raging sociopath. Chloe Moretz brings the perfect mix of sweet and vinegar needed for a character as complex as Hit Girl. Now it is hard to fully praise a story arc that has a forty year-old man mercilessly beating up an eleven year-old girl, yet without Big Daddy and Hit Girl the film falls on its face.

As I mentioned earlier, the film is very flawed but I still found myself enjoying the film more than I anticipated. Unlike Wanted, Kick-Ass actually made me interested in picking up the comics just to see the similarities and differences with the source material. Again, Kick-Ass is not a film that I would recommend to the masses but for those willing to take a fun, and very twisted ride, for a few hours then you may want to give the film a shot.


  1. I liked it, overall.

    (I love the title of this post, by the way)

  2. @Simon - The title took a bit longer than usual to come up with. Glad you liked it.

  3. Well, I think saying the movie does enough to elevate it above 'Tank Girl' and 'Daredevil' is rather low praise.

    The inconsistencies in the script you mentioned are precise, but too minor to bother me. I was more disappointed with how the film essentially makes its cake and eat it too: it starts off by creating a world in which one is an idiot by pretending to fight crime dur to the evident dangers, only to morph into a film where people really are acting like superheroes and kicking every bad guy's ass.

  4. @Edgar - you make a good point about what the film morphs into. It becomes a very tradition superhero flick in the second half. Which is something it seemed to be fighting against in the beginning.

  5. For me I loved the great blend of action and fantasy, as well the tongue-in-cheek appeal. Check out my review:

  6. "Kick-Ass will not stand the test of time like other comic book flicks..."

    I have to say that I strongly disagree with this (and not just because I get to write this more than a year after you wrote those words.)

    As I was walking out of the movie theater I felt that this movie would have a large impact. It almost immediately made a star out of Chloe Moretz and she became the new teen "it" girl in Hollywood.

    The objections about how Katie acted, or about Dave's pain tolerance are off. Katie just wanted the guy to stop hassling her; she didn't want him dead. Finding out he died after she asked Kickass to help her makes her feel like she had something to do with the guy's death herself. She's a caring person and this is completely in character.

    As for Kickass getting knocked out - that has nothing to do with pain tolerance from dead nerve endings. It's your brain getting knocked around inside your skull.

    Honestly, the review almost seems apologetic about liking the movie. Multiple times it's stated that general audiences probably won't like it and it almost seems like you were searching for flaws to balance out the fact that you liked it. (Sorry.)

    I have watched this movie multiple times with several other people, including my 57 year old sister who hates action films and her 60 year old husband. They loved the film. So did everybody else I watched it with.


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