Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Review: Kick Ass (2010)

Kick Ass has had some pretty intense marketing and internet circulation, and lots of hype begin to surround it as the excellent reviews came flooding in. I was intrigued, because I have a love/hate relationship with most superhero films, and it looked like an outstanding premise, both eliminating any outrageous characteristics normally assigned to superheroes and working as a teen-angst attack on the villains of society, and also working as a satire on a genre that has dominated and mostly tarnished the screen over the last decade. While I thought it was often-hilarious, and featured a guilty dose of stylish ultra-violence, I couldn't help but feel slightly disappointed that it didn't fully complement the moments of brilliance with an engaging plot, leaving me underwhelmed overall.
Kick Ass is a progression of one action sequence after another with very little substance or heart in between. It does try to present some character depth and a rejection by Dave (Aaron Johnson) of Kick Ass' escapes, but it's obvious that Matthew Vaughn, responsible for the nearly incomprehensible Layer Cake (2004), has struggled to put the pieces together. Seemingly the team has thought that some scenes looked cool, or would be fun to try out, but have thought little about the motivation behind these sequences or their plausibility. Many people will argue that it is a film that doesn't take itself seriously and should be enjoyed for its laughs and homage to superhero films. But it does examine some very serious crime waves and most notably in Kick Ass' near death situation at the beginning of the film and the brutal live torture sequence , it presents some pretty horrific moments. It tries to tiptoe around these brutal scenes by separating them with explicit comic violence and inventive methods of killing, and some outrageous stunts performed by children, with the intention of creating a laugh or a surprise.
The motives of Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) are very briefly examined during an animated sequence appearing like an illustrated comic. It seems that his obsession for revenge on Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) for planting false evidence that led to five years behind bars has led him to sickly raise his 10-year-old daughter, Mindy (Chloe Moretz), into a cussing killing machine and adorn his house with machine guns and high powered weapons. Mindy, who has a sweet relationship with her father, takes on the character of Hit Girl where all of her innocence is forgotten. Her destruction of multiple groups of armed hit men are the most exciting parts of the film and are superbly edited, but also become tiresome by the conclusion. We open with Big Daddy firing a gun at Mindy as an exercise to demonstrate the impact a bullet can have on her body. She is wearing a bulletproof jacket, and he promises that after three rounds facing the gun, she can go bowling and have a hot fudge sundae. It is this tongue-in-cheek stuff that I really liked. But the film's idea is that you don't have to have super powers to be a superhero, seems a bit ridiculous when this pair has the money to afford high powered weapons that gives them a major advantage, whether they are blessed with powers or not.
I thought it was also a brilliant coincidence that one of D'Amico's associates also happened to be the man Kick Ass' love interest was having issues with, and who he decides to confront, linking the interests of Kick Ass to Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

Kick Ass is stylish and visually stunning, the action sequences are edited as quickly as bullet-fire and capture every punch or moment of impact. It is comically violent and at times also sickening. The introduction to Hit Girl, where she massacres the room of drug dealers with a machete is brilliant, and when she rescues her father and Kick Ass during the live torture is beautifully captured. People have their legs chopped off, are blown out of high rise buildings by a bazooka and are pummeled by chopping knives in true Tarantino fashion. Other highlights were D'Amico's minions' misuse of a giant microwave, and Big Daddy's single assault on the warehouse. The memorable soundtrack featuring The Prodigy and Primal Scream is also absolutely fantastic throughout. As for the performances, Aaron Johnson was relatively well cast in the title role and gave a solid performance that was appropriately reflective of Peter Parker in Spiderman, although the strange gay plot line was included and had no impact whatsoever. Nicholas Cage, disappointingly added very little, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (McLovin from Superbad) gave an awful performance as Red Mist. Granted, his character was easily the worst in the film and had very little role other than to provide a rival superhero for the public to worship, and so that the filmmakers had more to fuel their ideas of ordinary people working as superheroes. Neither a hero or a villain, he unfortunately seems to be a major player in the inevitable sequel. But most of the praise must go to Chloe Moretz for her controversial performance as Hit Girl. Having previously appeared in 500 Days of Summer, where she provided relationship advise to Joseph Gordon-Levitt, her scene-stealing performance in Kick Ass has her ready for stardom. She is both cute and incredibly frightening, and while the extremity of her skill is unbelievable for such a young girl, it makes it no less exhilarating. As one of the most entertaining films currently released in 2010, I certainly recommend Kick Ass. Most will find it a guilty pleasure, but be aware that it has potential to offend.

Rating: 3 Stars


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  2. Nice review, man. This blog is coming along like gangbusters! I basically agree with you about 'Kick Ass', it's totally entertaining and always holds your attention. After a while it does become a bit repetitive though...too many action sequences that meld together. I thought Chloe Metz was fucking amazing though. Seriously, she needs some proper recognition for that performance but that will probably never happen.