August 8, 2010
Kick-Ass (2010) **
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Kick-Ass (2010)- I'm all about the fun, but this fanboy magnet is maybe the most mindless thing I've seen all year. ** out of 5
Kick-Ass should be criticized as a bad movie because it is pretty terrible, but it shouldn't be denounced, as it has been, for its ultra-violence or the way young Chloe Moretz is required to use bad language. The violence isn't all that disturbing, and having just watched Life During Wartime, there's nothing Chloe said in this film that the young actor in that film didn't top in shock value. Rather than marginalizing the film on a moral ground, it's smarter and easier to bemoan the fact that Vaughn and company are content with presenting a sloppy, lazy final product to its niche audience.
Based on the graphic novel, gravel-voiced Aaron Johnson plays David Lizewski, a comic superfan who decides to become a real life superhero mainly because, as a normal teenager, he's not really all that successful. He dons a green wetsuit and confronts some carjackers who quickly stab him which is immediately followed by David being struck by a car. He's fitted with metal rods in his bones, and his nerve endings have been numbed, which makes David somewhat immune to pain. He uses his medical mishaps to take on a superhero alter-ego called Kick-Ass, and when he successfully stops a gang beating, Kick-Ass becomes an internet sensation.
This captures the attention of a super fighting father/daughter duo who decide to follow in Kick-Ass' footsteps and take on the superhero personas of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. They're played by Nicolas Cage, in another in a long line of bizarre performances, and nine-year-old Moritz. Also taking notice of Kick-Ass is crime boss Frank D'Amico whose son Chris convinces him that he can win Kick-Ass' trust by becoming a superhero named Red Mist. All this leads to stabbings, shootings and viscera right out of the pages of the graphic novel. Among the sequences of gore, David finds a girl who thinks he's gay and then ravishes him when she finds out he's not.
The first half focuses mostly on a teenager's quest to find meaning in life and a look at what a real life superhero would have to face in terms of violence and brutality. The tone is one of tongue in cheek reality, but once Christopher Mintz-Platz enters the picture as Red Mist, the whole thing takes on a colorful comic book feel and the development of David beyond the stupid girlfriend stuff mentioned above ceases completely.
There's a lot of winking going on which shows that the film isn't taking itself too seriously, but the way in which the fights are staged makes them feel so false that it's impossible for any kind of tension to build up at all. The violence is meant to be over the top, though personally, I found the gore kind of dull. There are a few funny moments, but not enough for the film to work as a comedy. At the climax, after killing so many people without breaking a sweat, Hit Girl meets her match when she's face to face with Frank who easily inflicts quite a beating on her. Of course, this makes no sense. She's a killing machine until the script requires her to be a defenseless eleven-year-old girl. On top of that, at the very end, a character is left alive for no other reason than for the upcoming release of Kick-Ass 2.
Kick-Ass doesn't work as a violent action film or a comedy or a coming of age story. It's trying to be fun, and though at times it is entertaining, the film as a cohesive whole is truly lazy. The story could easily have been tightened in so many ways, any of which would have added significantly to the unity of the plot. What we have here is a promising first draft, and despite the fact that Comic-Con fanboys were exhilarated, they perhaps don't realize how much better Kick-Ass could have been if it wasn't so completely slapdash.