a critiQal film review Kick-Ass (2010)

Plot: When comic book fanboy Dave Lizewski (Johnson) decides to take his obsession as inspiration to become a real-life superhero, there's only one problem - he has no superpowers. Nonetheless, he forges on, and his life is forever changed as he inspires a subculture of copy cats, is hunted by assorted violent and unpleasant characters, and meets up with a pair of crazed vigilantes, including an 11-year-old sword-wielding dynamo, Hit Girl (Moretz) and her father, Big Daddy (Cage).

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When I first heard about Kick-Ass, I thought it was going to be like Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) – over-the-top action (hopefully) done right. But, after seeing a preview, it looked to be more along the lines of a superhero spoof flick, with a nerdy loser trying to become a superhero.

With director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust (2007)) and Nic Cage in the mix, I thought it had a chance to be decent – but then again, Nic hasn’t always chosen wisely in the past (Bangkok Dangerous (2008)) and sometimes the humor in Vaughn’s Stardust (2007) was forced. So, I decided to wait on checking out Kick-Ass.

After the movie came out, all of the attention switched from Nic to Chloe Grace Moretz’s 11-year-old foul-mouthed Hit Girl instead, and again, I had mixed feelings. Was this just another form of child exploitation, or is this just another edge to a film that doesn’t hesitate to push boundaries?

Eventually, Kick-Ass popped up in NetFlix® instant queue, and today I finally decided to watch and see what all the fuss was about. Is Kick-Ass an edgy real-life superhero flick, or is it going to be another black eye for superhero spoofs?

Aaron Johnson takes on the title role, and yes, the name is rather unfamiliar, despite popping up in films like The Illusionist and Shanghai Knights (2003). Still, this works for the character he plays, since he’s supposed to be a nobody, and without the face recognition of a big star, that’s exactly who he is to the audience.

Nic Cage, on the other hand, pops up as superhero Big Daddy, and, since he’s more accomplished, the viewers expect to see a more seasoned actor in the role, and that’s exactly what they get. It’s nice to see him in a film where he isn’t the main focus, and, as it turns out, he’s pretty good at playing a supporting actor. After Kick-Ass, it’s a good bet that viewers will probably tune in the next time he decides to let someone else take the spotlight as well.

Chloe Grace Moretz, however, is the true stand-out of the picture. While the film is supposed to focus on Johnson’s title character role, the brash young Hit Girl takes over every time she’s on screen. Although much younger, she’s able to run circles around hero Kick-Ass, and massacres her way through throngs of bad guys without so much as a wince. She’s tough as nails, and uses the aforementioned foul language to further shock and surprise her foes, giving her just another advantage. It’s a stellar performance from the young Chloe, and viewers should expect big things from her in future roles (like the upcoming Carrie (2013)).

The storyline itself takes the fad of superhero worship and brings it down to a more realistic level – at least at first. Kick-Ass’s first attempt at playing superhero, for example, puts him in the hospital, pitiful and defeated. While the plot builds to a conclusion that includes Kick-Ass, a bazooka, a jet pack and gatling guns, the humble beginnings really show a more realistic side to superheroism than most of the big budget action spectaculars do – and that includes the “dark and edgy” Batman flicks of late.

Surprisingly, the dark humor feel of the film is prominent throughout the first part of the film, although that does fade away once the film becomes darker, but the filmmakers do a good job of relieving the building tension even then with a few well-placed remarks and sequences. It’s not really laugh-out-loud funny, it’s more as if the film knows how reckless and silly their hero is, and lets the viewer know they know it – yet don’t detract from the hero’s strong sense of injustice being played out all around him.

The action sequences are tense and chocked to the brim with crazy sequences, including slow motion and even a semi-homage of the hallway fight sequence from The Matrix (1999) films. Sure, they are over-the-top and bloody as all get out, but there’s a fluidity to them that makes them exciting to watch even as the viewer winces along with hero Kick-Ass at the bloody carnage.

Kick-Ass certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s not a feel-good flick about how one person with a sense of injustice can change the world. Instead, it’s crude, bloody and violent as all get out…and many won’t be able to get past the vulgar language and bloody actions of that 11-year-old girl.

But if you are able to get past that exterior, Kick-Ass is a harsh look at the most realistic superhero ever to be seen on a movie screen – even if the Hollywood ending does end up putting him into more of the fantasy realm superhero film fans are used to.

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