Kick-Ass

You guys! Hit Girl and Big Daddy is totally the best movie I’ve seen this year! It’s so heartwarming and original and provocative at the same time! I love their relationship and their fearlessness, and…oh wait.  This movie is called Kick-Ass? Well, I guess it’s still pretty awesome.

Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic book  is fiercely entertaining. The superhero genre has been taking itself far too seriously of late (Dark Knight, I’m looking at you!), and Kick-Ass takes those gloomy conventions, drenches them in twisted irony and spits them back out.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, center) is an ordinary, somewhat nerdy high school student. There’s no romantic devastation to his life. His mother died of an aneurism when he was young, but he lives with a loving and attentive father. He’s got a couple of friends, a curly moptop, no special powers and no all-consuming lust for vengeance. Dave’s understated voice-over tells us early on not to expect a lot of melodrama from his origin story: “Like most people my age, I just existed.”

Until one day he decides to buy a cheap scuba suit, starts doing push-ups and adopts a superhero secret identity named Kick-Ass. Just to try it out, really. He figures that bad guys truly exist; why shouldn’t heroes? Kick-Ass’s first attempt at heroism results in his falling from a building, getting stabbed and hit by a car, all of which culminates in some fortuitous nerve ending damage. Dave can’t feel pain any more! And now we’re in business.

Kick-Ass becomes wildly popular thanks to YouTube and MySpace (seriously? MySpace?), and Dave is suddenly propelled into some serious shit. Wealthy crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) has Kick-Ass on his radar after some cheeky mistaken identity hijinks, and his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, still McLovin’ his way through this role) has a diabolical plan to pose as new superhero Red Mist, engage Kick-Ass’s trust and lead him into a trap.

Fortunately for Dave AND Kick-Ass, there are some REAL fucking superheroes on the block. I’m talking about Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage in one of those rare but wonderful roles in which he actually acts).

Mindy and Damon MacCready are a father-daughter duo who will BEAT YOUR ASS. These two know how it’s done! Damon’s been disciplining Mindy to be a superhero since his release from prison after being framed by, guess who, Frank D’Amico. Mindy’s mom died in childbirth and the two have lived in one long, bad-ass training montage ever since. Now THAT, my friends, is an origin story!

These two have such an honest, affectionate, supportive relationship. Cage is absolutely sublime here; warm and gentle when he’s a father instructing his young daughter; dangerously off-kilter (with Adam West’s jerky Bat Voice) when he’s Big Daddy. Let me repeat: Cage! Is Awesome Again! And Moretz as Hit Girl? Damn, y’all. DAMN. Homegirl will EAT. YOU. FOR BREAKFAST. She’s ferociously violent with terrifying speed and one spectacularly dirty mouth. I just worship this character! Moretz knocks it out of the solar system with her outrageous bravado and coy wit. She’s a powerhouse and I can’t wait to see this actress in another role.

A lot of critics have condemned the extreme violence and language from the 13-yr-old actress. Dang, you guys! Parents just don’t understand! There’s nothing exploitative about Moretz’s performance or Hit Girl’s character. If this were a young male superhero, I doubt the prudes would be so outraged. Hit Girl’s a hard-core chick who takes care of business and always protects the good guys. The fact that she happens to do so in a jubilant, stylish, entertaining manner: well, the better for us all.

Kick-Ass is raucous and hysterical with anarchist energy and an impeccable sense of irony. Each joyful shot is a perfect color-splashed comic panel, and the costumes are delightfully original. Even Kick-Ass’s sorry little scuba suit (and Timberlands!) look surprisingly awesome.

But. I had a genuine problem caring about Kick-Ass. His single-minded mission to become a hero, his touching relationship with his father, his geeky-cool friendships, the unrequited crush he has on the High School Pretty Girl who thinks he’s gay…all of that should engage me. It’s an Underdog Gets HIS story, and that’s my favorite kind of story.

But every decision Dave makes, no matter how significant—from deciding to become a superhero to deciding to give it up—seems to be made on a whim. “With no power comes no responsibility,” he says in that blithe voice-over, and while that’s a great sardonic play on a momentous line, it also sets the tone for the indifferent manner in which Kick-Ass is featured in his own movie.  Nothing he does resonates, and I can’t quite figure out why. It’s partially the performance by Aaron Johnson: tepid during the most powerful of scenes. It’s partly negligent writing from Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman, who, like the audience, clearly just want to get back to the stuff with Hit Girl and Big Daddy. And it’s partially the simple fact that Moretz and Cage are so brilliant in their roles, they outshine everyone else. I guess it’s no different than Heath Ledger’s subversive performance as The Joker transcending Christian Bale’s Batman, but when the entire plot hinges on rooting for the little guy, I just wish the little guy had a little more to offer.

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8 Responses to “Kick-Ass”

  1. marla, as per uze, you are 100% correct! I *liked* Dave, in the same way I like chicken. It’s very servicable! You can do lots of things with it! And it is kinda good for you!

    But Hit Girl. Hit Girl I love like I love fresh cupcakes, like I love mozarella cheese made from buffalo milk, like I love fresh-picked heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market. Hit Girl is an EVENT.

    I guess an entire movie of Hit Girl and Nic Cage being good for once would be too much, like a meal of prime steak, fresh cheese, and lots of chocolate. But still . . . what a delicious meal it would have been.

  2. definitely double true on the dave front. although i didn’t think about it much while i was *watching* the movie, looking back, i totally agree with you. i guess i was too distracted by the EXTREME FIERCENESS of hit girl to realize that i didn’t give a shizz about kick-ass himself.

    you also pointed out the other major issue i have with this film: MYSPACE? ARE YOU KIDDING ME? this is a comic book movie, and yet that moment was the most unrealistic part. GAH.

    major lolz: “and…oh wait. This movie is called Kick-Ass? Well, I guess it’s still pretty awesome.”

  3. Another review that perfectly captures the experience…nicely done! Seriously, I think I laughed out loud when they mentioned Myspace (did I? You would know, Marla). I LOVED Nic Cage and Chloe Moretz. Liked the rest, but LOVED them. I actually liked McLovin’s performance more than Aaron Johnson’s – It may be just that McLovin feels like a more interesting personality than Johnson. Whatever it is, I felt like Kickass was (like Batman) the least interesting character in the line-up.

    Speaking of seeing Cloe Moretz in more lead roles, I am suffering from terrible ambivalence. See, from what I’ve heard, Chloe DOES have another starring role coming up soon…..

    IN THE AMERICAN REMAKE OF LET THE RIGHT ONE IN.

    Twist!

  4. Ohhh, Jerry that is a twist. I feel so conflicted. She was in 500 Days of Summer as JGL’s younger sister and she was really cool in that too.

    I think the problem with Aaron Johnson is that he looked right and they cast him for that reason. He had the dork thing down. He looked like a regular guy– someone I would’ve gone to high school with. The performance just fell a bit flat. Everything else, I enjoyed. Once again, HG and BD were the best part. A really fun movie but it just lacked that magic to make it perfect.

  5. TWIST indeed! I’m still not seeing it though. Chloe may be awesome, but she’s not SWEDISH awesome.

  6. okay, okay, but guys, i’ve sort of come around on Let the Right One In. Cause it’s not a remake of the movie. It’s a more faithful adaptation of the book, which the original movie (awesome as it is) it not actually that faithful an adaptation of. (like they remove the more overt references to pedophilia, and also the gender identity stuff)

    So, if you think about it as a possible awesome adaptation of an awesome book, STARRING HIT GIRL, doesn’t it sound more interesting?

  7. True, that DOES sound more interesting. but DAMN that original movie is amazing. But then again Hit Girl….I iz conflicted!

  8. Come on. You actually think the American remake is going to address the taboo subjects the Swedish original was afraid to include? That’ll be hard to cover in a PG-13 studio pic.

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