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Overall Rating
3.47

Awesome: 25.45%
Worth A Look30.91%
Average: 14.55%
Pretty Bad: 23.64%
Total Crap: 5.45%

5 reviews, 25 user ratings


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Kick-Ass
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by Erik Childress

"Only Hit-Girl Deserves The Title"
3 stars

The central premise for the promising genre-busting entry of Kick-Ass is that the world is not populated by the caped crusaders and mutant superpowers which have graced the inside pages of comic books for decades. No kidding. We may not have any Supermen or X-Men, but why has no one attempted to become a real-life costumed avenger? Probably because, as one character so casually articulates, that they would get their ass kicked. But what might happen if someone were to just try? As audacious as the makers of Kick-Ass believe this question to be, there have been any number of projects that have already attempted to answer it. The varying quality of these attempts is in the eye of the geek beholder, but the promising setup and rousing climax of Matthew Vaughn's film contradict each other and we walk away partly exhilarated but even more with the nagging feeling that the questions it raises were never fully explored.

Geeky, string-bean teen Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is the one who first poses the query. His daily life consists of masturbation fantasies and hanging with his friends (Clark Duke & Evan Peters) at their favorite comic book coffee shop. Dave decides to put the idea to the test though, buying a green wet suit that makes him look like the lead in the Superhero Movie spoof. He learns a hard lesson when he tries to take on some car thieves and ends up in the hospital reinforced with enough metal pins to make Wolverine jealous. Armed now with a greater tolerance to withstand pain, the story has already begun to betray its own intentions.

Across town however though is hope in the form of 11 year-old Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz). Her daddy (Nicolas Cage) has been training her in the arts of weaponry and how to take a bullet for years. Both of them have costumes too as their alter egos Hitgirl and Big Daddy; hers resembling a punk rock Zorro and his pretty close to Batman, complete with an Adam West impersonation. Some vigilante has been taking down the business of town crime boss, Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) and signs point to the guy in the green suit who has become an internet sensation after a successful triple takedown outside a donut shop. Frank's own son, the friendless Chris (a very good Christopher Mintz-Plasse), is desperate to learn the family business and sees a chance to help his own big daddy lure out the menace.

Plotting should be an afterthought or at least secondary to the ruminations of the superhero myths and foibles being supplanted within a world without supernatural powers. "With no power comes no responsibility," are words that Vaughn and Jane Goldman (adapting from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.'s comic) seem to take a little too much to heart since Kick-Ass is not nearly as subversive as it purports to be. Consider every stigmatic piece of psychology attached to the interpretation of comic book heroes - daddy issues, homophobia, misunderstood outcast syndrome - and now imagine the possibilities in exploiting them for satire. Exploring them seriously would employ the talents of someone like Christopher Nolan. Instead Vaughn botches nearly all attempts at grafting the various tones and ultimately delivers a film that wants to have its cake and eat it too without having the know-how of a film that explores its themes seriously like Unforgiven or one like Hot Fuzz, that prides itself on being an all-out satire and still manages to work as an exemplary entry into the very genre it is riffing on.

The closest Kick-Ass comes to achieving this level of balance is within the characters of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, the latter of whom arriving like a cocktail shot of epinephrine and nitroglycerine every time she appears in costume which, frankly, is not that often. Despite being revealed as the basic drive of the story, these two are pushed into the background as bridges to Lizewski's antics when a focus on them would have provided the necessary gravitas to what dedication would be necessary to be an avenging angel in a hellish city. Forget Kick-Ass as satire. It has already failed as much by the time Hit-Girl makes her first slaughter. The initiative that our only hope for subjugation is in the youth who must lose their childhood pursuing ultimate vengeance in the name of their father is a smorgasbord of opportunity. Instead we get a quick backstory, some admittedly fun banter between father and daughter, a cued swear word each time, a lot of skill with knives and guns but not one moment categorizing her actual strength level in kicking guys three times her size and approximately 15 minutes of clocked screen time until the big finale where Hit-Girl dominates and almost makes us forget what hasn't worked about the film.

That comes quite simply in its lead character. Dave Lizewski or Kick-Ass or whatever you want to call him is not the kind of guy you want your film to depend on. This is not drawing into a stereotype of unlikely leading man. I mean he goes so beyond boring and non-interesting to the point that members of the audience may find themselves put into the role of the bully that wants to see him pounded. For starters, he is not the kind of nerdy dweeb that we sympathize with. He is never portrayed as being smarter than anyone or possess any general intelligence, geeky or otherwise, that would set him apart from the pack. The direction his relationship takes with the class hottie (the gorgeous Lyndsy Fonseca) corners the film into a rambling subplot we would expect out of a straight-to-video American Pie or Van Wilder sequel. Aaron Johnson's channeling of Peter Brady's awkward pubescent ticks doesn't help matters. Clark Duke, despite a track record of not helping Sex Drive or Hot Tub Time Machine, would have actually been a more inspired choice for the role, employing the right amount of nerdy smugness that could have kept at least the tone of his storyline intact. Instead he's playing yet another best friend sidekick who thinks he's cooler than he actually is. As written now, Kick-Ass' tunnel vision motivations reaches a point of no return to where I would have applauded if Hit-Girl just turned the gun on him before the big finale. Imagine that, the "hero" of a story that actually deserves to die for being simply too stupid to live. I suppose it amounts to an unhappy coincidence that his suit color of choice is a lighter shade of kryptonite, though no less on sapping whatever strength the film possesses.

Because Kick-Ass ends with 25 minutes of pure sound and almost ovation-worthy fury (including a shiver-inducing rescue sequence set to John Murphy's music from Danny Boyle's Sunshine), it will be easy to leave on a high. I certainly did. Both times I saw the film. The second trip through the film only exposed how lackluster the moments are without Cage and Moretz, the former doing his best work since The Weather Man and the latter coming off a sharp supporting turn as the sister in (500) Days of Summer has now turned the remake of Let the Right One In into a must-see event with her in the role of the young vampire. Connections to The Professional (aka Leon) notwithstanding, Moretz displays the precise level of confidence of a young Natalie Portman and we can look forward to big things from her in the future.

Kick-Ass, the character and the movie though is another matter. It is already swimming amongst a sea of wannabe superheroes from John Ritter in Hero At Large to the as-yet-discovered Defendor with Woody Harrelson which is a far more realistic take on an older version of Kick-Ass with real beatings and real psychosis. Even the forgotten Mystery Men which occasionally betrayed its concept but introducing a super-reality in the cracks (like Dave's new metallic structure) was more consistent in what it was. Matthew Vaughn started by producing a number of Guy Ritchie's films, and while he is miles ahead as a filmmaker he still has a schizo handling of tone just as he did with the Ritchie-esque Layer Cake and the Gilliam-esque Stardust (which also featured a left field gay subplot). A bit hard to feel the sting of a gaping knife wound when you follow it up by the retreaded gag of a surprise hit by a moving vehicle. In many ways it makes for the perfect metaphor. Unwilling to accept the true consequences of the premise it establishes, just throw Hit-Girl into the frame and all is forgotten. Until you actually think about it for real.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=19779&reviewer=198
originally posted: 04/16/10 00:58:26
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/19/13 Charles Tatum Ultra-violent, satirical, and worth a look. 4 stars
8/29/12 Alex Figueroa It was a bit cheesy but towards the end it got better. It was alright. 3 stars
5/13/12 randy todger awesome 5 stars
4/09/11 mr.mike It was damn good. 4 stars
3/10/11 art "KICK ASS!,WAS NO KISS ASS!" 5 stars
2/20/11 Dom Gutlessly superficial, unrewarding, deplorable and tedious. 1 stars
8/15/10 gc Why is kick ass even in this movie? 4 stars
8/04/10 Dan Two words: Hit-Girl. 5 stars
8/01/10 Enrique I thought it was going to be like spy kids. Boy was I wrong! Awesome movie! 5 stars
6/15/10 art the BEST thing about this movie was HIT-GIRL! 4 stars
5/26/10 Eric Perski Best film I've seen in years, a revelation. Totally wasn't expecting this and it was awesom 5 stars
5/21/10 ForAnAngel BEST MOVIE IN YEARS!!!!! 5 stars
5/11/10 Moeyanger Tarentino meets Apatow- Loved Hit-Girl 4 stars
5/09/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess The closest thing I've seen to a mainstrem Troma movie 5 stars
5/08/10 Luisa Super cool movie. Please don't take kids to watch it. 5 stars
5/08/10 black Sunshine why review a film of a genre you don't like? 5 stars
5/05/10 dognose Thank you for making this film, whoever made this film 5 stars
5/04/10 barrow#1 freakn hiarious and had a good story behind it. i loved it! 5 stars
4/22/10 Man Out 6 Bucks Hollywood going hentai 2 stars
4/22/10 Ronald Holst A little to stupid for most I would imagine 1 stars
4/20/10 Matt A Tarentino-ish comic film. Not as reflective as it would like, but still ridiculously fun. 5 stars
4/20/10 PAUL SHORTT CYNICAL AND SHAMELESSLY IRRESPONSIBLE 1 stars
4/18/10 Unexpected I really didn't know what to expect..took my daughter and WOW! HitGirl was unreal! We loved 5 stars
4/18/10 action movie fan good start but turns deja vu spiderman meets kill bill both were better 3 stars
4/17/10 Mackenzie Everything the title promises. Go see it now! 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  16-Apr-2010 (R)
  DVD: 03-Aug-2010

UK
  N/A (15)

Australia
  16-Apr-2010 (MA)
  DVD: 03-Aug-2010




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