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rochefort [Film Festival 03.14.10] movie review comic

Year: 2010
Directors: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman / Mark Millar
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: rochefort
Rating: 8 out of 10

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) has a simple question: Why hasn't anyone ever tried to be an actual superhero? His answer, that anybody who might try such a thing would get his or her ass kicked, is not good enough, so Dave makes a suit, gathers some gear, and takes to the streets as the avenger Kick-Ass, despite the fact that he has no superpowers and no combat training. He soon inspires copy-cats, meets rival self-made superhero Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka "McLovin"), encounters real-deal father and daughter vigilantes Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), and runs afoul of mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), who doesn't care if Kick-Ass lives up to his name or not, he can't abide a rabble-rouser. Yes, folks, Matthew Vaughn's "Kick-Ass", based on Mark Millar's comic, is here, preceded by a buttload of hype, most of it glowing. Does it deserve it?

Well, we'll get to that in a minute. First things first. If you're genuinely on the fence about whether or not you're going to see it, then here's the most help I can offer: This is one seriously fun time at the movies. I know full well that the festival experience can sometimes blow out of proportion the genuine worth and entertainment value of a particular flick, and the crowd at the Paramount Friday night was definitely into every minute of this one. One can get so wrapped up in the crowd's shared enthusiasm that one might end up taking part in a kind of consensual mass adrenaline high, and that road leads to over-hype. But hours later, I'm still convinced that one chief reason why all this love is justified is because "Kick-Ass" is fall-down funny. There's so much potential in just how ridiculous it is for a regular guy to don a costume and fight crime, and the script thankfully mines the concept so thoroughly that there's little to complain about in that area. Aaron Johnson's portrayal of Dave/Kick-Ass is as charismatic and convincing as it needs to be, and several roles have been expanded from the comic to not only beef up their respective arcs, but to also make them much, much funnier. Particularly Cage, who channels a certain iconic actor's take on an even-more-iconic tv superhero in a way that is initially jarring, but soon gives way to full-on brilliant.

But "Kick-Ass" is not the second coming of cinema, or even superhero-themed cinema. And honestly, that's perfectly okay, because it does what it does extremely well, and is a massive piece of hard "R" entertainment. And yes, I have read the comic, and Vaughn's movie does deviate from the source material here and there (albeit with Millar's blessing). They're mostly little changes, but a few of them really add up. The weird thing is that some do so to the movie's advantage, while others are clearly concessions made for the sake of wider audience appeal, and they're ultimately the plot's weakest links. For an example of a positive change: in the comic, there's a key character who does a double-cross late in the series' run, but in the movie that character's true nature is evident from their first scene. It's a smart move, one that sends a message to even the diehard fans that yes, there will be surprises. On the other hand, certain characters (the ones played by the bigger stars) get more screen time than the movie's narrative can sustain, and the end result is that the main character isn't the front-and-center presence he needs to be, his periodic absences sometimes way too long.

There's one thing, however, that most audience members (including me) will have to admit is a big chunk of unmitigated awesomeness: Hit-Girl. Chloe Moretz so knocks her role as the teenage slaughter machine out of the park that, honestly, the movie belongs to her in so many ways that it would almost justify a title change. She is clearly the MVP here, further helped by scenes with Cage that will remind you why you ever liked the guy in the first place. Their shared joke is that there's a sweet and old-fashioned tone to their father-daughter dynamic, very "Leave It to Beaver", except that here Big Daddy rewards his daughter with ice cream after she takes a point-blank slug in the chest. They're Batman and Elektra (the Frank Miller version) by way of Norman Rockwell, and even though the script might have benefitted from following their comic counterparts more closely, it mostly works. It's also really cool to see the good guys depicted with the kind of bizarre gusto that's usually reserved for villains like Heath Ledger's Joker.

So does "Kick-Ass" deserve the massive (and steadily rising) hype-love it's been getting since the first screenings last winter? I'd say yeah, pretty much. Despite its flaws, most of which show up in the Hollywoodized slam-bang ending, this is the gateway movie for the next wave of comic adaptations. If it makes money (and I'm betting it'll be at least a modest hit), it will prove to studio execs and bean-counters something the rest of us have known for a long, long time, namely that there's plenty of room in the movies for slightly dangerous and even subversive cinema. Hollywood is doing just fine these days; the industry can clearly afford to open its coffers to the next potential generation of upstarts, and I for one hope that "Kick-Ass" is just the latest of many more to come.

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trogen (12 years ago) Reply

Cool been looking forward to this for a while.

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