Apr 14 2010


In this era of redone, re-envisioned and rebooted superhero films, it is expected that our superheroes be portrayed in a more realistic, edgy manner than that of their Golden Age-era counterparts.  But there hasn’t been a film that, both, pays homage to caped crusaders and displays gleeful irreverence to the genre.  At least, not like Kick-Ass.

Like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead before it, Kick-Ass is a film made by and for die-hard fans of the genre.  The film, based on a comic book series of the same name, makes open references to the superhero mythos and addresses questions thoroughly discussed in comic book shops everywhere.  Director Mathew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) masterfully balances these elements together and tells a great story, while making sure that the narrative is always self-aware of it’s own origins, thus pushing the genre into a new direction.

The film opens with Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a painfully average teenager who asks the question: “Why hasn’t anyone ever become a superhero?”  Dave isn’t the most obvious candidate: he isn’t wealthy, has no super powers or training, and has no tragedies weighing down upon him.  Nonetheless, our plucky protagonist purchases a green wetsuit, creates a MySpace page for his alter ego, and becomes the crime-fighting Kick-Ass.

Soon after he embarks on his new endeavor, Kick-Ass becomes a media sensation, inspires others to don capes and cowls,

What can I say? Getting hit hurts.

stumbles into the middle of the city’s crime syndicate, and finds the answer to his question: getting stabbed, kicked, and punched in the face really, really hurts.

At its core, the film really does address the reality of our hero’s question.  The film focuses on violence, injury, and the abandonment of morals a superhero would have to deal with on a regular basis.  Of course, since reality tends to be a bit boring, the film indulges in exploitative violence as it progresses, which leads us to an idiosyncratic view of the world of a superhero.  In fact, due to brightly colored look of this world and the over-the-top action it holds, the film is less, “what would the real world be like with superheroes?” and more “what would comic books be like if they better resembled the real world?”

Although the film deals with the real world trials and tribulations of crime fighting, Kick-Ass chooses to have fun with consequences, and the film gets quite a kick out of its own over-the-top violence.  People get sliced, diced, microwaved, and beaten to bloody pulps, yet the execution of said violence is colorful and playful.  No one pulls any punches in this film, yet the audience will find themselves quite entertained by watching the characters fight crime, only to find out that crime fights back, and dirty too.

For an ultra-violent farce, the acting is quite good.  Johnson does a pretty good job as the film’s titular, everyman hero, and his two friends (Clark Duke and Evan Peters) bring a much welcomed smart-ass banter that keeps the filmed grounded in its comic book loving, nerdy roots.  The only real flaw between these three characters is the lowbrow, crude sense of humor involving the mythical teenage sex drive.  Although adolescent male humor is naturally rife with dick jokes, there are moments where the film is trying a little too hard to tap into the Superbad market, which looses focus of the film’s real story.

Speaking of Superbad, Christopher Mintz-Plasse co-stars as the city’s reigning mob boss’ son and fellow “super” hero Red-Mist.  Despite his past penchant for nerdy roles, Mintz-Plasse displays a little more range with this character.  He’s still a little awkward, yes, but there’s also a depth and maturity that Mintz-Plasse portrays quite well.

The best performances of the film lie with Nicholas Cage and Chloe Moretz, playing the father/daughter duo Big Daddy and Hit Girl.  Both characters completely embody the films blend of sardonic giggles and extreme, graphic violence.  Cage, who has officially accepted his role as the “King of Weird”, is perfect as Big Daddy, who sports a Batman-inspired suit and Adam West impersonation.  As per usual with intriguing superheroes, Cage is at his best whilst out of costume, as he plays his alter-ego as a kind of psychopathic Ward Cleaver, which would be unsettling if he wasn’t so earnest.  Moretz matches her daddy’s off-kilter viciousness with a foul, foul mouth to boot, yet the 13 year-old-actress has equal parts energy and control that keeps her out of “obnoxious kid” territory.  The result?  She steals the show.

Kick-Ass isn’t the first film to take a look into the lives of costumed heroes; it’s not exploring what makes them tick, or what they must endure in their quest for justice, but it definitely has the most fun doing so.  Granted, the film isn’t a serious study into the mind of a vigilante, but the film fills in the gap between reality and cartoonish fantasy, and kicks some serious ass while doing so.

The film's title says it all: 3/4

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