Kick Ass (2010)

1 Mar

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

As far as I can tell from reviews, “Kick-Ass” is a movie you either love or you hate. Is it possible to “only like” it? I guess it is possible, because I “only liked” it. I did not love it, but I do not dislike or hate it either. Yes, it is overly violent. Yes, it has uneven humor. Yes, it tries to be a mixture of both. But about that last “yes,” it does work at a mixture of both funny and violent. We’ve seen the superhero-set-in-reality gimmick before, like we did with the great Disney/Pixar film “The Incredibles” and Will Smith’s surly superhero “Hancock”—we just haven’t seen it with teenagers in the lead roles or with graphic violence that would make Tarantino wince. The movie takes place in the “real world”—crime is where you least expect it and nobody has superpowers.

The film’s narrator Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a geeky high school teenager who is just plain average—his only superpower is being invisible to girls, he doesn’t have a lot of friends on MySpace, and he has his own fantasies. He is heavily influenced by comic books and wonders why nobody ever tried to become a superhero in this crime-ridden world—he thinks that all a person needs in order to be a superhero is a costume and a weapon. So, under the name “Kick-Ass,” he tries it out—he orders a green wetsuit complete with mask, carries two blunt objects, and looks for crime. His first attempt is a failure as he is almost killed. But that doesn’t stop him. Soon, he scares off a group of muggers and is caught on somebody’s iPhone. Soon, Kick-Ass is a YouTube sensation and the inspiration for other “superheroes.”

If Kick-Ass’ beatings are violent enough, you haven’t seen anything yet. A subplot involves a mob boss (Mark Strong) who kills people mercilessly without explanation—a bad influence for his teenage son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, best known as “McLovin”). In one scene, the man even fries one person with a man-sized microwave. But even that’s nothing compared to what I am about to explain next. It turns out that a father and daughter have become costumed vigilantes of their own, inspired by Kick-Ass. They are Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Big Daddy dresses up like Batman (complete with Adam West voice—he pauses. like. this.) and his true identity is a near-crazy father to eleven-year-old Mindy, who is Hit Girl. How crazy? Consider an early scene where he uses his own daughter as target practice (Mindy wears a bulletproof vest so she can feel what it’s like being hit with a bullet). He wants to do it three times—Mindy asks for ice cream and bowling afterwards. Big Daddy has taught Mindy the ways of the weapon—from butterfly knives to handguns—and together, Big Daddy and Hit Girl are more experienced than Kick-Ass.

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Here’s what will draw the most controversy for “Kick-Ass” but will also be the most memorable—Hit Girl is not playing a game like Kick-Ass is. She is overly serious about this new identity—she doesn’t just outsmart the criminals; she kills them stone-cold dead. She cannot be reasoned with. Complete with a purple wig, a leather outfit and mask, Hit Girl is an eleven-year-old nightmare for all parents.

The crime boss doesn’t like that Kick-Ass, Hit Girl, and Big Daddy are wasting his men, so he declares open season on them. His son gets a costume of his own and names himself Red Mist. His job is to trick Kick-Ass into leading him to Hit Girl and Big Daddy. This sets up the final half of the movie, which is more violent than funny. But when you raise a climax for a movie like this, what more can you ask for? It’s a final showdown—you saw it coming, deal with it.

What I liked about “Kick-Ass” was that it featured a main superhero that has no experience whatsoever. As a hero, Kick-Ass is better off staying home. But he tries his best. This is what gives the film an edge—both for effectiveness and for humor. I liked Kick-Ass’ true identity Dave’s high school problems that could be resolved with his secret identity now that he has self-confidence. He even scores the girl of his dreams (Lyndsy Fonseca), who at first thinks he’s gay. Now, portrayed by Aaron Johnson, Dave may be a bit bland, but he is believable and that’s what the film needed. He is not supposed to steal the show, so he doesn’t. What really gives “Kick-Ass” its kick are the characters of Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Big Daddy is played by Nicolas Cage in his craziest performance in a long time. He understands this material and plays with it. I can’t think of another actor who could pull off this character. I love it when he says his dialogue while in the Big Daddy suit—his speech impediment in those scenes makes the film work greatly for Cage. Chloe Grace Moretz is a true find as Hit Girl. She may get the most attention for a girl of her age doing all of these horrible things to people, but it helps that she is an extraordinary young actress.

“Kick-Ass” is original, alive, well-made, and powerfully-acted—it also bloody and violent. It deserves its R rating. The trailers for this movie make it seem like a PG or PG-13 family superhero movie. (Parents will most definitely be shocked by the language that comes out of this little girl’s mouth, though the kids will love it.) I was interested in these kids and I feared for them when they were in real danger. Not that I approve of Hit Girl killing hit men. But done in the wrong hands, this material could’ve easily failed. Luckily, it finds its place and keeps it there. Is “Kick-Ass” a masterpiece? No. But it’s a fun thrill ride.

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