Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Written by: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn (screenplay), Mark Millar & John Romita Jr. (comic book)
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Aaron Johnson, and Chloe Moretz
The way Kick-Ass was marketed, you’d never know what it was about. It could be the next raunchy teen comedy, a Scary Movie iteration with super heroes, or a campy exploitation flick. After seeing this movie, I now know why they could not market it efficiently. Kick-Ass is all of the aforementioned things, struggling much like a super-hero to find an identity. At it’s best, it is a rocking reinvention and exploitation of the super hero mythos. At it’s worst, it is a formulaic teen comedy with shock value language dueling with shock value violence.
The premise of the film is interesting enough. With caped crusaders invading our pulp culture like cockroaches, why has no one in the real world donned a mask and set out to fight crime? Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) plays the nerdy philosopher who comes up with this idea, and decides to take action. He becomes Kick-Ass, a scuba-suit wearing crime fighter who is stabbed and beaten to a pulp his first night on the job. The answer to his earlier question is answered early on.
Kick-Ass learns that there are really no heroes, and that the only ones out there killing the bad guys have revenge in mind. You could explore this notion afterward if you like, but director Matthew Vaughn wants you to buckle in and enjoy show while you’re in the theater. There isn’t much time to breath or think, something I consider a strength in his direction considering the script.
As the film progresses, the world Kick-Ass inhabits morphs into that of a super hero’s troubled metropolis. Heightened reality, brighter colors, and arch nemesis present themselves in campy, ridiculous fashion.
Some may say it adds to the movie’s sardonic edge, but I found the genre mixing of teen comedy and campy B-movie violence to be unsettling. When it sticks to one genre or the other, it’s fine. More often than not, that genre is the latter.
The intro to this movie seems to be like every other intro to a story of a troubled quiet nerd who can’t help like the girl with the locker next to him. Dave even shares the same hair style and attitude as his predecessor from Zombieland. In essence, Kick-Ass gives the same raunchily humorous treatment to the super hero genre, just to less effect.
One thing that Zombieland didn’t take to quite an extreme was the violent little girl. 11-year-old Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) has little Abigail Breslin beat in the kill count, the swear count, and the overall cool factor. If there’s one thing from this movie that will be remembered, it is her dispatching entire rooms full of adults with butterfly knives and pistols after spraying expletive-ridden taunts at them.
The controversy surrounding this character was inflated by the media. Is it tough to see character that is 11 take a beating? You bet, but Moretz gives this character spunk that makes her the only one in the movie to live up to its title.
As for the rest of the cast, there’s Nicholas Cage as Big Daddy, Hit Girl’s father. The two make a great team. and could’ve had an entire movie to themselves that probably would’ve been better. Cage is overly-campy (“To the lair!”… no thanks) but he keeps it well-intentioned enough to generate some real laughs.
The other main member of the cast is Christopher “McLovin'” Mintz-Plasse as the son of a crime lord who wants to be both a super hero and join his dad’s business. Mintz-Plasse gives the second best performance in the movie, but nothing can stand in the wake of Hit Girl.
The trouble with most shock-value movies is that once the after-shock subsides, there’s nothing left of substance. This may be leveled towards Kick-Ass, but there is something to be learned from it about the nature of heroes and the costs of revenge. Unfortunately, the movie wants to remain campy, and the problem with B-movies is that you never get to see their A-game.