Sunday, April 18, 2010


Kick-Ass - Co-written and directed by Matthew Vaughn, starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Nicolas Cage - Rated R

(I apologize in advance for how cheesy this wordplay is, but I can't resist): "Kick-Ass" kicks ass.

Comic book movies are a dime a dozen these days, but Kick-Ass is a bit different. It’s a comic book movie that acknowledges comic books. The self referential factor allows the film to be much funnier than its typically serious counterparts. This doesn’t mean Kick-Ass is a flat out comedy. It still features plenty of vicious action and extreme vulgarity, and I loved every minute of it.

Kick-Ass is about Dave Lizewski, a comic book reading high school kid who dares to ask, “Why hasn’t anyone ever tried to be a superhero?” Obviously, Dave decides to try it out himself, so he creates the alter ego Kick Ass and “tries” to fight crime. The only problem is that Kick Ass isn’t very good at his work, but that doesn’t stop him from becoming an internet sensation which propels him into some serious crime fighting.

The serious crime going on involves a mobster running drugs through a lumber business front. The mobster himself (Mark Strong in yet another good performance) and his son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse aka McLovin’) are interesting enough, but it’s their nemeses that are the real stars of Kick-Ass.

Big Daddy (played with great fun by Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) are doing some vigilante work of their own, but they are a bit more serious, and deadly, about it. This is the aspect of the movie that might rub some people the wrong way. Hit Girl is actually a little girl…and she cusses like a sailor while she kills dozens of bad guys in increasingly inventive and gory ways. The character didn’t bother me, but then again I’m not easily offended by movies. Kick-Ass, though rated R, is a relatively lighthearted movie. In other words, it’s not to be taken very seriously.

Hit Girl is a very entertaining part of the film, but it’s Big Daddy that stole the show. Cage is a well known comic book geek and he gets to let his inner geek shine through in this one. Big Daddy is not just a well trained killing machine; he is also an amateur comic book artist, which makes him a little bit of a dork. When he’s in his costume, he talks in a stilted serious tone, his attempt at sounding like the heroes he idolizes. In fact, Cage was doing an Adam West impression to go along with his Batman-like costume. Some might find it weird, but I found it hilarious.

The film hinges on one performance, though. How good could Kick-Ass be if the title character was played by a terrible actor? Thankfully, the filmmakers chose Aaron Johnson, who is perfect on every level in the role. He was completely convincing throughout the entire film, especially in the non-hero moments. A good portion of the movie is about being a teenager. The dorky teenager plot has been done to death, but Aaron Johnson, along with his buddies (the amusing Clark Duke and Evan Peters), keeps things amusing. I expect Johnson’s star to rise even more in the near future.

The filmmaking is quite impressive as well. Director Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake, Stardust) took this on as a passion project, getting the financing on his own because he knew that no studio would put up the cash for it. His love of the source material is evident through the entire film. Vaughn’s style conveys the tone of the comic book perfectly. He also proves that he can handle action scenes in creative ways.

Usually, a film establishes an action style early on and sticks with it. That’s not a terrible thing, but it can make a film kind of boring. Kick-Ass mixes things up a bit. Sure, there is a fairly standard, though brutal, style used throughout, but there are also more creative moments as well. My personal favorite was the scene in which Big Daddy singlehandedly takes out a warehouse of goons. The camera movement coupled with the jarring vibrations with each gunshot made for a very cool sequence. There are other examples, but the point is that this film tries a bit harder than most to be visually interesting and it succeeds.

Kick-Ass is one of the best comic book movies I’ve ever seen, but mainly because it’s aware of other comic book movies, if that makes any sense. I imagine all dorks, a term I regularly apply to myself, will love the film. But you don’t have to be well versed in the comic book world to enjoy it. It still has all the regular elements of the comic book movie blockbusters; it just has a sense of humor, and a great one at that. Kick-Ass is a flat out crowd-pleaser and unless you have hang-ups regarding foul-mouthed murderous little girls, you will probably love it.

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