Friday, 16 April 2010

Film Review: Kick-Ass

(Directed by Matthew Vaughn, running time 117 minutes)

Last year’s Watchmen was something of a mixed bag... well not for me, I loved it but I’m not narrow-minded enough to not acknowledge that for certain others it was hardly their favorite film that either they couldn’t understand or take its dark themes. Regardless of how you felt, what it was was a spin on the superhero genre, a plot element underused in cinema. To those who may have said nay to Watchmen (shame on you), while the very much hyped Kick-Ass has much in common with Alan Moore's brainchild; humanizing superheroes, casual violence and a twisted sense of irony, the plot is significantly more stream-lined and the general tone is much lighter.

Aaron Johnson plays Dave Lizewski, a teenage “comic-book nerd” who has an epiphany moment over the notion that despite its popularity, no one has tried putting being a superhero into practice, thus engaging in mask vigilantism himself in the form of “Kick-Ass”. Initially such attempts are comically futile even though being filmed and posted on YouTube helps his credibility much more than actual crime fighting (this subtle reference carries more weight as a a piece of commentary than at first glance). During the ride he gets mixed up with two highly skilled yet deeply deranged masked heroes; Big Daddy and Hit Girl, played by Nicolas Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz, both who are on the warpath against kingpin mobster Frank D’Amico played by Mark Strong.

Sounds simple enough right? That’s because it is, while the story changes direction and tone between comedy and drama, the climax is clear on the the horizon. The prime issue to grapple with here is not the moral ambiguity of the script (trust me, if you haven’t already you’re bound to hear it from some heavily right-wing nut job radio commentator), I’ll get onto that later. No, it’s the genre. While all previews and trailers depict Kick-Ass as something of a comedy for young adults, greatly at times the whole mood takes a plunge into a psychological/social drama. While not overshadowing the obvious comedy touted outside the theaters, the drama is very much clear cut and stands out in a one by one ratio. Often at times the audience will witness a series of slapstick skits before taking in angst or sorrow the character might experience (because satire can be serious). This is a human related story after all. Even though such subject matter is sprinkled out in doses throughout the film to prevent becoming overbearing and in itself is defiantly apart of the overall experience as the comedy, I fear some questionable advertising may be setting some common folk up for a potential unpleasant surprise after having been put into the wrong mind set.

On the comedy front however, there is thankfully deliverance. Even with the glaring pit falls his character experiences as his alter-ego, Dave Lizewski also engages in a close friendship with one of the most attractive girls at his school, after having mistaken him for being a homosexual with the first joke to mind being the resulting sexual-tension on Dave’s parts as he consistently pretends to play along. Aside from the endeavors of the protagonist, further humor in exhibited from the youngest of the D’Amico clan, Chris/Red Mist played by Christopher Charles Mintz-Plasse, better known to the student audience as McLovin a’la Superbad who is as pleasantly awkward as ever, being an even more cocky yet useless rookie crime fighter than Kick-Ass himself. Additionally, the side cast such as Dave’s even more geeky friends and D’Amico’s hired goons have their own moments in the comedy spotlight.

However, it’s Big Daddy and Hit Girl who steal the show, being a pair of downright deranged individuals while at the same time oddly compelling that we even cheer on as they blatantly gruesomely decimate wave after wave of all sorts of unsavory low lives. And that’s something, like Watchmen, the violence is in plain site and rather unexpected, we’re talking massive head-shots, severed limbs and in one instance a guy exploding in a giant microwave oven. In terms of its violence however, given the comedy angle, it’s more reminiscent of Tarantino, being apart of the humor and colossal sense of irony. Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy is something of a parent-orientated Batman who despite some hiccups in the past, I would say has redeemed his credibility as an actor. Chloë Grace Moretz is more of an oddity since despite being a mere child, pulls off some of Kick-Ass’s heaviest profanities and executions to the extent of forgetting her age completely... which leads me onto this...

NOTE: This next paragraph is more of a brief commentary over the recent controversy this film has caused rather than a view on the film itself so skip to the last paragraph to get right to the conclusion.

There may be some out there who find certain elements of Kick-Ass questionable, for others even distressful. One reason for such negativity to resonate may be a result from the already explained unexpectedness of the heavy violence and profanity. In this one’s own opinion, all this does is benefit the spin on the superhero genre and enhance the elements of social commentary here and there. The prime issue however is that of Hit Girl, where some have found distasteful and exploitative. First of all let me say anyone who thinks it’s exploitative is sick and for that you sir/madam are the deranged individual. As for the violence, I will admit at first it is somewhat bewildering to see a small girl massacre a group of drug dealers and towards the end even take a bloody punch to face, and while I can understand why such an image might be distressing to some, in the end it’s a matter of taste. Sure, a loving parent would not take such violence kindly whereas a teenager out for cheap thrills wouldn’t batter an eyelid.

Kick-Ass is definitely a unique film experience that you should check out, being part teenage comedy, part violent action and part social drama, all of which is helped further by its in your face satire and sharp script. For most I assume reading this, they’ll find something about it entertaining, but due to some hang ups people have had in the past I must emphasize they approach with caution as it is not entirely what it seems at first.

Also stars Lyndsy Fonseca, Clarke Duke and Nelson Frazier, Jr (that’s Viscera the wrestler).

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