"Flawed masterpiece," "defining period piece of our generation," "the most unrealistic realistic superhero film I've ever seen." All of these describe my feelings for Kick-Ass and more. My most anticipated film of 2010 next to The Expendables and the A-Team remake, Kick-Ass goes into the category of "love it or hate it" with me being in the former. Is it bloody and gory? Yes but not gratuitously. Is there language? Yes but not overwhelming or distracting. Is there violence? Yes but it all has purpose in the long run. Kick-Ass is everything I expected and more and is probably one of the best movies of this year.
*Warning-contains mild spoilers but nothing plot destroying*
The story of Kick-Ass faithfully (or to a certain extent) follows Mark Millar's comic book of the same name. It's the tale of Dave. Dave is your average high schooler except unlike other high schoolers he has no defining features whatsoever. He's not good at sports, isn't a mathlete, doesn't have a tattoo or piercing and isn't even the funny one in his group of friends. The only thing that defines Dave's personality is that he is a comic book reader whose mom died of an aneurysm and he's totally invisible to women. He's also a chronic masturbater who has fantasies about his English teacher. But despite not having any defining qualities Dave does have one thing: a dream. A dream of becoming a superhero. So after getting mugged after school one day Dave decides to buy a green wetsuit and fight crime. Problem is he sucks and on his first outing he gets stabbed and hit by a car which puts him in the hospital for months and ultimately gives him damaged nerve endings and steel plates all over his body, making him fairly immune to any pain-the closest thing to a superpower in this film.
While all of this is happening we are introduced to the other two main components of the story: The Macready family and the D'Amico family. The D'Amico family is run by Frank D'Amico, a mobster who has his hand in every major organization. He's rich, powerful and fronts a lumber store so he can sell drugs to everyone. His son Chris wants to get into the family business but Frank doesn't like the idea. The Macready family consists of Damon and Mindy Macready, two established vigilante heroes known as Big Daddy and Hit Girl. These two have been trying to take down the D'Amico family and stop their evil tyranny.
Eventually each of these families get intertwined as Dave gets out of the hospital and becomes the Internet phenomenon known as Kick-Ass. Big Daddy and Hit Girl want to team with Kick Ass and Frank wants him dead after believing that HE was the one who stole drugs from him.
It's actually a really well done plot. The story does take a while to pick up, the first thirty minutes ARE the origin stories (well all except Big Daddy and Hit Girl which is done later in comic panel form) so they have to establish character. That's not to say that they're a bad thirty minutes but in every first superhero film, the origin story does drag on for a while. The body of the story is also really good as well mixing humor with seriousness and of course balls out action. The last twenty minutes or so is what really makes or breaks the movie apparently. It's pure adrenaline filled action almost non stop with a satisfying conclusion. Yes it sets up for a sequel but not in a cliffhanger way but more as a "Next time gadget" sort of way leaving it ambiguous enough to stand on it's own as an ending but open enough FOR a sequel.
Where Kick-Ass really shines is in it's writing and the acting. Besides the plot, the dialogue is sharp, witty, dry and intelligent. Dave is a typical teenager but at the same time there is something deeper there. He is very reminiscent of The Narrator from Fight Club in the way he is full of cynical words of wisdom, jabs at himself and others and a inner monologue that both works as great character development and a good source of humor for the film. Even the small talk dialogue or even the body language of some of the characters is great. There is one scene where a girl is burying her head into one of Dave's friends and immediately the first thing he does is nudge his friend and point like in a "Oh yeah" kind of way. Just the subtle stuff is great. Overall the writing is great.
Aaron Johnson was given a hard task with playing Dave/Kick-Ass. Already an established and well known (at least in the UK) actor, Aaron has to play the lovable hero but also can't outshine everyone else because he really is the weakest superhero out of all of them. Like my podcasting partner Nick said in his review he has the Harry Potter syndrome in the sense he has potential but relies on others to help him out. But Aaron still portrays a very real character and you really do relate and care about him. Along with Johnson, the film also stars Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin), Nick Cage and Chloe Moretz. Mark strong plays Frank D'Amico and does a decent enough job. He plays a good villain, as it was established in Sherlock Holmes, but he just comes off a bit stereotypical mob boss in this film. That's not bad but I kind of expected more sinister from him. McLovin (I can't help calling him that) does well but it's kind of hard to really like him. His character is well done, albeit slightly predictable, and he does a good enough job but he hasn't really stepped out of that McLovin shell.
The real stand outs of the movie though are of course Chloe Moretz and Nick Cage. Nick Cage, whose been quite good lately with films like Bad Lieutenant really shines as Damon/Big Daddy. His bipolar approach to life, one minute being this brooding angry bloke who can explode at any moment to "Oh Child what a lovely day" kind but demented father, is really quite interesting. Damon has really been through a lot of trauma and it shows without having to shove it in your face. He truly only lives to take down D'Amico and for his daughter, the one thing he cares about. His love for violence too is also a great social message as well. Unable to cope and accept life as it is, he is stuck in the anger part of grieving and instead of coping he decides to take it out on others and inappropriately find closure by killing D'Amico and his crew. As Big Daddy too he is quite mesmerizing because he is very meticulous and calculated and at the same time doing his best Adam West impersonation which makes me laugh every time.
As for Moretz she does quite well as Hit Girl, proving she can stand with the big names and in fact pretty much steals the show. Mindy is a brainwashed, cold but caring little girl who lives to serve her father. She is still a little girl (as noticed by the hot chocolate with pink marshmallows and her "Yes daddy I'm sowwy" when she messes up during a fight scene) but she's also had to grow up really fast. She is a whiz with weaponry ranging from guns to knives and she is very talented with acrobatics and thinking on her feet. She's also got quite the mouth on her which is surprising the first time you hear it. But she IS really a deep character and she grows on you. Even though she is this cold killing machine essentially you really care about her.
The film is not without it's faults though. Like I mentioned it takes a while to get going and it takes about as long to get to any action. The violence and the language may also put some people off, mostly because the violence is done by and towards Hit Girl who also swears the most. Also some of the side characters seem like they could have been utilized more, the love story is good but kinda seems tacked on at times (although the actress playing Katie is good). Also there are some side stories that get overshadowed like Dave's apparent fear of heights, the bullies that initially kick his ass, and Kick-Ass helping people out through myspace. But these aren't dealbreaker faults.
Overall Kick-Ass is a great movie with great action, great acting, great writing and is one of my favorites of the year.
MY VERDICT: TOP FILM
PS: Did anyone notice the 28 Days Later theme in the film during the warehouse scene? Oh and that the library (or hall) scene was reminiscent of this scene from Wanted?