Monday, April 19, 2010

Kick-Ass Movie Review

With a marketing campaign centered around a 12-year-old girl cursing and shooting people in the face, it's no wonder this movie tanked at the box office. But should it have?

Adapted from the eight-issue comic book written by Mark Millar and drawn my John Romita, Jr., Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), your average American high school student. Dave is a bit of a nerd. He doesn't run with the popular crowd, he has trouble with the ladies, and he spends most of his time either reading comics books or furiously masturbating in his bedroom fantasizing about his English teacher. Oh how I miss high school....but I digress. One day while sitting in the local comic shop with his friends, Dave is struck by one of the most important philosophical questions of our time....Why hasn't anyone ever tried to be a superhero?

Think about it, millions of people have read comic books and watched superhero oriented movies and television shows, and even more have probably fantasized about what it would be like to be Batman or Superman. How is that no one has ever put on a make-shift costume and prowled the streets to dish out vigilante justice to the criminal element? Well the short answer is that any asshole who put on a pair of leotards and a mask would probably get shanked by a drug dealer name Lil' Big within the first 15 minutes of patrol. But this little nugget of truth is not enough to stop Dave from ordering himself a wetsuit online, doing a few sit-ups, and taking to the streets as Kick Ass.

Needless to say, Dave gets in over his head. And by over his head I mean he gets stabbed and hit by car during his first confrontation with a pair of carjackers.  Now at this point, after months of rehabilitation and shitting into a plastic bag, most people would come to the realization that they don't have what it takes to be a superhero. In fact, they'd probably come to the conclusion that no one does. Comic books are fiction. Fantasy really. But Dave isn't most people. He's been bitten by the superhero bug and soon finds himself back in uniform. This is when the movie really gets interesting as Dave is introduced to two of the most fascinating characters to hit movie screens in a while: Big Daddy and Hit Girl, played brilliantly by Nicholas Cage and Chloe Moretz.

Big Daddy and Hit Girl are a father-daughter team hell bent on taking down the mob. Gone are the days of the citizen arrest. These two are out for blood. And lots of it. When Kick Ass finds himself trapped in an apartment with several drug dealers about to kill him in ways he never imagined, Hit Girl comes to his aid. More accurately, Hit Girl and two samurai swords she wields in such a way as to make Akira Kurosawa nauseous. Now this sounds like a character you've seen in a dozen action movies prior to this. What makes Hit Girl so special, and so controversial?  Did I mention she's played by a twelve-year-old girl?

Chole Moretz steals the show as Hit Girl. Period. She's violent, she's foul mouthed, and she's cute as a button. A real triple threat. When she's on screen you love every minute of it. When she's off screen you can't wait for her to return. This girl is going to be a huge star. Her stunts were top notch, many of which she did herself, and she delivers one of the movies shining moments in a gut-wrenching scene where she attempts to rescue her father before he is killed by the mob. The audience whimpered. It was very moving. And she also delivers the movie's most memorable line where she tells Kick Ass the best way to contact her and Big Daddy if he needs any help. I won't spoil it here. You have to hear it for yourself.

As good as Moretz was, everyone else came a close second. There is not a single misstep in the casting of this movie. It's rare that I go to a movie and don't come out complaining about someone's performance, but every actor completely owned their role. Two cast members deserve special mention: Aaron Johnson and Clark Duke.

You can't review a movie called Kick Ass without mentioning the lead actor. I don't know much about Aaron Johnson. I can't name another movie or television show he has been in. But I do know that he was spectacular in this movie. He is a character that you like instantaneously and you find his pathetic attempts at heroism inspiring. You believe that he wants to do the right thing. That he's tired of being bullied and sitting idly by while criminals and assholes treat good people like garbage. You root for him the whole way through and that helps you buy into the movie and the premise that, even after nearly being killed, he would go back out and do it all again.

Clark Duke plays Dave's best friend Marty. Marty is skeptical of the whole idea of an average citizen becoming a costumed vigilante. He even tells Dave that no one as ever tried it because they would probably get killed day one. In this way, Marty represents the audience. He says what we're all thinking when Dave suggests that someone should become a real-life superhero. He also acts as a big part of the film's comic relief. Much of his performance is in subtle little glances he gives throughout the movie, but a simple look will make you laugh  your ass off. Duke isn't in the movie a lot, but when he is he's gold.

Finally, let's give it up for director Matthew Vaughn. Prior to Kick Ass, Vaughn directed two other movies: Layer Cake and Stardust, two movies that couldn't be more unlike Kick Ass. His choices in cinematography, music, and visual style all come together to make Kick Ass an all-around bad ass flick. There's not a decision he made that didn't work. I very much look forward to seeing his next project whatever it may be.

I can sum this movie up in one word: Fun. It's not a masterpiece. It won't win an Academy Award, nor will it make anyone's list of the top 100 movies of all time. But it will give you an enjoyable 2 hours at the movies. The more I think about it, the more I enjoyed it. As I sit and type this I wish I could see it again. Kick Ass is a definite 4 out of 5 star movie. I'm disappointed that it didn't have a stronger opening weekend. I think more people need to see it. Hopefully it will sell a shit-ton of DVDs. If this movie is any indicator of what the summer movie line-up will bring consider me on board.

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