Kick Ass – Movie Review

Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire

Kick Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, Shanghai Nights), an awkward high school senior who, out of sheer teenage impulse, becomes a masked vigilante “superhero” named ‘Kick Ass’ that winds up in the middle of an actual hero’s conflict with New York’s biggest drug cartel. A shot at post-modernist hero lore, the film attempts to posture itself outside of traditional comic book movies by basing the character in a more “realistic” portrayal of New York City. The film’s R-Rating allows it to ground this reality in keeping the action sequences gun-centric and the dialogue four-letter friendly. Bad guys die, good guys get hurt, both sides cuss and the citizens watch it all unfold on YouTube. Yet, for a film so specific on what its aims are, the results are vague, plodding and genuinely unentertaining.

The film’s become something of an internet meme after film critic and Twitter enthusiast Roger Ebert panned it on the inherit morality (or lack thereof) of Kick Ass’ fellow superhero ‘Hit Girl’ (Chloe Moretz, Big Momma’s House 2), an eleven-year-old who exercises her itchy trigger-finger and rapidfire foulmouth just about every time she is onscreen. Raised and trained by her father ‘Big Daddy’ (Nicolas Cage, Face/Off) a framed policeman looking to bring down the corrupt system that sent him to prison and caused his wife’s suicide, at no point is the concept of vigilante justice or its consequences discussed between the two of them. While its absence isn’t necessarily a bad thing, there’s still a void that doesn’t explain where they go from wanting retribution to foregoing proper justice to “kill everyone now.” Both performances are great, particularly Cage who seems to be the only one aware of the sheer ludicrousness of the film he’s in and, to coin a phrase, “Cages Out” – maximizing all of his over-the-top acting abilities and holding the audience’s hand as we walk through an otherwise barren cinematic wasteland together.

As someone who grew up on Mortal Kombat and Rap Music, there’s just about nothing I love more than profanity and violence. When either is taken to the extreme in a jovial expression of one-upsmanship, the inherent hilarity is a feast for the senses and a triumph of human achievement. That being said, explicit language and violence is only as strong as the conviction behind it. Even if that conviction is just to be the most violent, profane thing ever, that’s still a valid reason to go to a particular extreme. Kick Ass director Matthew Vaughn gives us a preteen girl who jumps, jives and wails a relatively-plausible arsenal and drops s-,f-, and c-bombs without batting a glittery eyelash. I find it painfully disinteresting and not because I’m offended, but rather because I’m underwhelmed. As a New York High School teacher, I’ve seen kids who were more violent and vulgar than anything on-screen in Kick Ass and honestly significantly more entertaining. The problem with Hit Girl is that Vaughn thinks having a cutesy eleven-year-old girl who swears and kills is enough to make a character work and it honestly isn’t*. A good starting point, yes, but for two hours he does nothing with her. Compare that to the three on-screen minutes of Kill Bill‘s “Gogo” and you get everything you would hope for from Hit Girl in a fortieth of the time.

A midst the misfires, the film does reach a few goals exceedingly well. Dave’s pulsating teenage hormones guide the him through the teenage lust for classmate Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) and the awkward tension before finally sliding into second base is among the best handled I’ve seen on-screen. Fonseca really nails the subtle aspects of walking the line between “I’m concerned for my boyfriend’s health” and “I’m awesomely hooking-up with the local celebrity” Also shining is Superbad‘s Christopher Mintz-Plasse who shows the darker elements of the rich loner awkward kid, a much-different side of the same roles he and his ilk have been coasting in since their debuts. But such a talented cast firing on all cylinders just makes the flaccid final film all the more frustrating.

"Let's say you're a big fan of the original comic book, and you think the movie does it justice. You know what? You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in." - Roger Ebert

Vaughn’s biggest misstep with Kick-Ass is that he’s trying to make sure so many elements of the film’s story seem like they could take place in real-life, but attempts to propel the film with a fantasy comic-book energy that, as a result, doesn’t exist. You can’t have your Layer Cake and eat it too. Regardless the source-material or genre, a motion picture requires at least one complete thought, even if that thought is “Let’s have a bunch of stuff blow up so sexy people can look back at it and say something funny.” Kick Ass lacks the momentum to even let me turn my brain off and just revel in the carnage. By trying to define itself so much by what it’s not, Kick Ass forgets to tell us what it is over the course of two un-engaging hours where nothing happens. It’s baffling a film can do so little with so much and as a fan of foul-mouthed on-screen brutalities, I’m offended.

We give Kick Ass a Two out of Five

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*And the fact that she does it to THIS SONG makes it all the more cringe-worthy.

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2 Comments on “Kick Ass – Movie Review”

  1. tesaryder Says:

    ok, so the revenge aspect isn’t really made that clear, except for Red Mist and his father. Let’s face it though, this is probably the most realistic action movie that has come out that makes it seem anyone can really be a superhero. They even got it down to the whole myspace thing. I liked this movie and thought it was something rare to see and interesting. No matter what you or any old, old movie critic has to say. So yes, your points are valid and I understand them, but lets agree to disagree shall we? =] BTW I enjoy your blog(s).

  2. damian Says:

    “The problem with Hit Girl is that Vaughn thinks having a cutesy eleven-year-old girl who swears and kills is enough to make a character work and it honestly isn’t*. A good starting point, yes, but for two hours he does nothing with her. Compare that to the three on-screen minutes of Kill Bill‘s “Gogo” and you get everything you would hope for from Hit Girl in a fortieth of the time.”

    I think you took a piss (several actually) during the movie because you missed a whole of character development with hit-girl.


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