Holly shit, I love this movie!
I should start this review by saying that the super hero genre is overplayed and that Kick-Ass is a genuinely funny deconstruction which takes all the familiar tropes, cranks them up to 11 and delivers a dynamic, balanced mix of brutal realism, comedy and far fetched hero fantasy. But that wouldn’t be true. While super heroes are overplayed, the have only found their place on the silver screen in the last few years. Hollywood is still learning how to tell good stories about costumed crime fighters. In fact, judging from what was shown at Comicon the superhero movie genre is currently in full bloom. I mean, look at the list of upcoming titles: Captain America, Thor, The Avengers, The Green Hornet, The Green Lantern, Sub-Mariner, Lobo, X-Men: First Class, Batman 3, Deadpool, Ghost Rider 2, Spiderman 4… And that’s just some of the upcoming titles. Comic book licensed movies are the shit right now. We have not yet reached the point where they could even begin to be overplayed. But I digress…
That first sentence is still true. Kick-Ass is a genuinely funny deconstruction of the super-hero genre. It does deliver a healthy does of pure, rated R fun. It is funny, fast paced, and excessively violent. It contains some of the more memorable characters you I have seen lately.
Nicholas Cage and Chloe Mortez simply own this movie. Every time they show up on the screen you just can’t help but smile and cheer. Cage seems to be getting weirder with age, but his peculiar off-beat persona is spot on for this movie. It really underlines the “psychotic vigilante anti-hero” quality of his character. Chloe Moretz on the other hand plays the most impressive and effective action girl I have seen in years. I’m serious – she delivers every thing you could ever expect from action hero chick – including ridiculously over-sexed costumes, forward suggestive persona, insane martial arts stunts, and improbable scenes where she takes overpowers and takes down dudes five times her size. The only problem is that she is an 11 year old girl. Everything she does feels ridiculously wrong, exploitative and dirty. It really makes you take a step back think about how we portray female heroes in movies these days.
I remember this sort of thing being done before with Natalie Portman in The Professional. I don’t know if this is intentional, but that’s what this character reminded me off. Coincidentally Hit Girl is pretty much what Portman’s character would eventually become if she was allowed to stay and train with her hit-man friend.
Even though Aaron Johnson is the leading man, he seems to play a second fiddle to the dynamic duo of Cage and Mortez. However he does do an excellent job. When you watch this movie look closely at what he does. He is essentially channeling Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker. He has that role down pat, including the vacant stares and the mannerisms. This is only reinforced by eerily familiar scenes such as the alleyway/rooftop training sessions that were almost lifted wholesale from the first Spiderman. In fact he does such a great job parodying Maguire that people are already talking about giving him the Spider Man role in the inevitable future reboot of the franchise (yes, Spider-man is doing a pre-dark-knight batman style swan dive into obscurity, but that’s a topic for a whole other post).
The plot of Kick-Ass is fairly simple. It asks a basic question: what would happen if someone put on a costume and started fighting crime in real life? No superpowers, no gadgets – just guts and courage. Johnson’s character Dave – an average high-school geek- does exactly that. He dons a silly costume and hits the streets. Unsurprisingly, he gets the living shit beaten out of him almost instantly. But he doesn’t quit. He keeps taking beating after beating until his antics attract public attention and he becomes an internet sensation. Not before long he gets implicated in a very dangerous conflict between the local mob and and ex-cop vigilante whom he inspired to become a costumed avenger.
Here is an interesting bit: most costumed hero movies being released these days try to maintain a PG-13 rating to maximize profits. Kick-Ass wears the R rating proudly. In fact, it earns it. Instead of cutting away from the violence, it puts it under magnifying glass. There is blood, broken bones, detached limbs, decapitations – it’s an orgy of extreme violence. And it works. The contrast between the high school comedy and hyper violent fight scenes is bafflingly entertaining.
I would probably be amiss if I didn’t mention the other superhero deconstruction comedy I have reviewed. If you missed it, go check out Special. Same topic matter, but a very different approach. In my honest opinion Kick-Ass is a better movie. It is less cerebral, but it makes it up with the sheer entertainment value, straightforward plot and strong characters. Oh, and much bigger budget of course – but the production values was not the problem I had with Special.
Kick-Ass is a fun movie. If you have not seen it yet, go and watch it now. Like right this minute. It is worth it.