It’s been a movie to divide the masses, much as the comic from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. did, Kick-Ass is about an average teen who decides to become a real life superhero and tackle crime head on, with mixed results. The movie is directed by Matthew Vaughan (Layer Cake, Stardust) and tangents slightly from the comic, though not too drastically.
I will admit, I am not an ardent fan of Millar’s yet I was still pretty keen to catch this at the flicks. The trailers made it look like a fair bit of fun and I thought it would live up to its title, at least. With that open mind I now offer you my verdict of Kick-Ass, the cinematic experience, and decide whether it deserves to be the 123rd greatest movie of all time (true as of time of print on IMdB).
Things I Liked
Aaron Johnson’s Likeability
Kick-Ass, the actual actor, Aaron Johnson won me over in a lot of scenes. He was really pretty cool, even though his character was, at times, pretty thin with no discernible motivation. I liked the look of him, though I could not understand how that mop of hair ever sat comfortably beneath that costume hood. I can see a big future for this guy, but that should be no surprise as he’s been in the business for nearly a decade already. Johnson made me appreciate the character more than was deserved, and for that he gets a big thumbs up.
Chloe Moretz’s Sheer Spunk
Chloe Moretz is also pretty damned fine as Hit-Girl, and she also redeems a character that otherwise is pretty unevenly scripted. She brings a quality of light to the character that is scene stealing, an impressive feat when you consider her age and the fact that she’s up against someone like Nicolas Cage (who has won an Academy Award before, he actually can act).
Nicholas Cage’s Commitment
Nicolas Cage has some fantastic moments as Big Daddy. He absolutely dominates in some action sequences and watching him maniacally scream at one instant could only remind me of the Grindhouse trailer he did with Rob Zombie where he appeared as Fu Manchu, and that’s always a positive (go look it up if you're curious, though it's certainly not for kids). He actually made me believe that he was in the real pain that the movie tried its best to convey. Cage certainly commits, you can’t fault him against that.
The Warehouse Action Sequence
Big Daddy takes down the warehouse. This action sequence is one of the finest committed to film and I stand staunchly by that statement. Big Daddy is a one man rampage against the goons of mob boss Frank D’Amico and watching him tear them apart was simply fascinating. This is how brutal comic action should be depicted, always. It was stylish, and well choreographed, and I could watch it once a day. It’s a shame that the sequence was set to a piece of music by John Murray which was specifically crafted for the film 28 Days Later… It’s used effectively, sure, but I have a firm rule that you don’t steal another movie’s song, unless you think you can do it better, and this was close, but not better. And taking some remix version of the song does mean you're still stealing it.
Nods to the fanlads come thick and fast, the main character hangs out in a comic shop and we see a large poster of Hellboy which really gets some screen time, not to mention many issues of Marvel comics on display, like Runaways and staples of Marvel like Cap, etc. Then there are the littler slices of fandom, like a Cineplex showing a now playing marquee displaying ‘The Spirit 3’ and a hilarious mention of LOST. The movie plays to the fanlads, but not exclusively. The moments are there, for your consideration, but they don’t necessarily overplay the film. Your average Joe could survive without them.
There’s Something About Michael Rispoli
Michael Rispoli is also much more enjoyable as D’Amico’s right hand man than D’Amico himself is. I liked him in this role, he seemed like he was really acting a three-dimensional character with a range of emotions. He was so good amongst the villains that he almost seemed out of place. I’d like to see him turn up in more stuff.
The Spider-Man homages were actually quite well done with the houses that they live in being similar in style and the opening narration mimicking that movie’s style. It was effective and almost subtle, which was appreciated. I also liked how he later names examples of dead narrators just to add drama to a scene to prove that he might not survive. That was well worth a laugh.
That’s Not Kick-Ass
The gag of D’Amico killing the party entertainer dressed as Kick-Ass was pretty damned good. I knew it wasn’t the real Kick-Ass but that was genius. A well received and played out gag. And listen when he stomps on that head, would love to know what the foley guy used for that sound. A boot dropped into a vat of rancid mayonnaise?
Things I Did Not Like
There Was Characterization?
The weak characterization. Kick-Ass steps back into his role, after being stabbed, far too easily. This is explained with a throwaway line that his nerve-endings are shot and he feels no pain but that doesn’t mean he can’t die, it’s a pretty stupid reason for him to go out on patrol again. I didn’t buy it and would have liked to see the character have some true reasoning behind this very serious decision.
The Internet Is A Web
The fact that Kick-Ass would have been easily traceable via his IP address through his MySpace page. This is the first thing any fanlads would have done in the real world and they try to present this flick as taking place in some semblance of a real world but it’s really not. This, again, is dealt with in a throwaway line where Big Daddy says he found him via his IP address, and then it’s never mentioned again as if this then satisfactorily explains why no one else does it, and also why Kick-Ass doesn’t take the site down once he knows he’s out in the open.
Jet Pack Denouement
The Ending. Man, I don’t even know where to start with what I didn’t like about the ending. The jet pack is a monumentally dumb idea. I am going to say that this addition to the flick nearly completely ruined it for me. It was introduced in a throwaway line earlier for no other reason than that they needed it at the end. If it was so killer why didn’t Big Daddy use it earlier?
Just Add A Line To The Script
You’ll notice that all of these complaints were covered in the movie with throwaway lines, as if that is supposed to convince and placate me, the discernible viewer. The script seemed a little lazy at times, relying on stereotypes and cliché rather than truly making me invest. I wouldn’t have minded this if it was a spoof from the Wayans Clan but this wants, I assume, to compete against new comic movie fare such as The Dark Knight or Iron Man. To do so it must give us depth of character.
Dead Mother Gags
As soon as the mother dropped dead at the breakfast table I was worried. If you want that to matter then don’t throw it away like that, don’t play it for a cheap and juvenile laugh. It’s not the most important aspect of the story, in fact our narrator even tells us it’s not, but it didn’t need to be revealed like that. A cheap shot and an underestimation of the audience.
The tone of the flick is all over the place. It aims to be this straight shooting story of heroes in the real world but then at other times wants to be this teen tit-and-ass sex comedy, until it thinks it’s a real action film, until it becomes a superheroic farce, or deconstruction, or commentary, or next generation? The flick didn’t know what it was and it suffers for this. You can’t take characters and situations seriously when they’ve just played it for a one-note laugh. It’s like the touching moment at the end of Dumb & Dumber, by then who really cares?
Hit-Girl dropping the C-bomb. Not because I’m averse to swearing, or even this word in particular, but more because it was cheap characterization. She only uses it once and it does really gel with this girl at all. Sure, I can see what they were trying, Millar wanted to set up that this girl was brutal, just a complete maniac in a little girl’s body (must be hilarious, juxtaposition always is!) but the swearing was very tacked on, like it had to be done purely for the sake of then having done it. The girl of Mindy might be a fantastic killer but she’s still a little girl; she gushes about getting butterfly knives, and she loves bowling and ice cream sundaes, and her father is the kindest, sweetest, and quietest soul ever, so why does she swear like that? And why does he let her? It does not make sense, and it doesn’t give her an edge as a killer. Her father would have trained her to be a silent assassin, not some foul mouthed tramp. It didn’t mix with the character but it was an interesting punchline concept, which seems to be all Millar has created, punchline concepts.
I Wish That Was Me…
The fan-wankery got a bit overloaded when the hot girl of the school even admitted to going to the local comic book shop, I don’t care how good their coffee is, and then goes a step further by making her nail the nerd in the alley behind it. This was just fantasy writ large and completely works as a one note gag but devalues any true merit you might have tried to build in the relationship.
I liked Christopher Mintz-Plasse in the role of D’Amico’s son, but as soon as he got into the Red Mist costume it all turned a little Batman & Robin for my liking. This character is further punished by having to utter those final lines, stolen right out of Nicholson’s Joker’s mouth.
There were plenty of things that I wouldn’t go out of my way to trash but nor did I like them excessively. The whole sub-plot between Kick-Ass and the hot girl from school didn’t really do anything for me. It played to a few simple sex jokes but otherwise didn’t have much emotion nor depth to it.
I’m. Big. Daddy. Nicholas Cage likes to go out there with his characters. He studies them and comes up with certain tics that he thinks make them work, I didn’t like the one he got for Big Daddy. He figures that this guy grew up on Adam West’s Batman and so talks just like him when in costume. I can see where they’re going with it, they wanted him to have a different voice, they didn’t want Christian Bale’s gravelly scrape so they went a different way. I just didn’t like that way.
The entire plot is really pretty simple, they go after a very pedestrian mob boss. We barely see what he really does except get all hard on people and get them killed. He lacked depth (are you noticing I keep saying that?).
Verdict – Check It. But don’t expect actual brilliance. Maybe you will be amused, possibly entertained, but this isn’t cinema, it's a flick. There are so many misses with this movie that I felt like I was face-palming more than any other reaction, yet, the things it gets right it really gets spot on. This movie is not perfect but nor is it terrible. It has many flaws, which I guess you could overlook, but I am at a stage where I don’t want to overlook trivial scripts that only lead us to the next gag. I don’t know if I would see this movie again soon, but I know if I was a teen I would be all over this flick. I’d be able to overlook the flaws and enjoy it for what it is. Now that I’m older and somewhat wiser I can see that the film doesn’t really know what it is and this annoys me.
I’ll still give it a half-hearted 3 out of 5 but I couldn’t sit through it again so soon again. Once is enough for now, after time I know I’ll want to watch Big Daddy tear through that warehouse again but until then I’ll only be left with a taste of some terrible moments that didn’t really mean much.
It’s interesting, as a quick sidenote, that I didn’t pick this up in comic form, and never considered it, because there are tons of comics each week/month and this premise didn’t get anywhere near a purchase. Now, as a film, up against only so many comic films, or even films I want to vaguely see, this gets my money because of less competition in that time frame of release. I’d be annoyed if I got this over 8 issues but as a movie, an hour and a bit, I guess I had a few laughs.