Saturday, April 10, 2010
Movie Review: Kick-Ass
What if Quentin Tarantino had made "Spider-Man"?
The result might well be something like "Kick-Ass," an absurdly violent and profanity-filled romp that is definitely not a superhero movie for kids.
Dave Lizewsky (a nerdy-yet-heroic Aaron Johnson) is a typical New York teen, obsessed with superheroes.
One day, he decides to toss on a colourful wetsuit and patrol his neighbourhood as the superhero Kick-Ass. Unfortunately, Kick-Ass soon draws the attention of the local mob man (a sneering Mark Strong) and other vigilante heroes, including the menacing ex-cop Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his whirling dervish of a daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). Needless to say, things get out of control fast.
"Kick-Ass" prides itself on being a "realistic" look at superheroes -- nobody has strange powers, and Kick-Ass -- well, he spends a lot of the movie getting his ass (or arse, if you prefer) kicked.
Director Matthew Vaughan piles on the colorful carnage and comedy, with buckets of profanity, blood and slayings that are more for laughs than anything. But he also cleverly makes "Kick-Ass" feel topical with nods to Internet celebrity and televised terrorism.
"Kick-Ass" is a heck of a lot of fun, although it's kidding itself if it thinks it's really that revolutionary and "realistic." "Kick-Ass" at its core is no more realistic than Batman, really.
Confession and digression: I actually haven't read the "Kick Ass" comics the movie is based on yet, but this movie's whiz-bang shock-and-awe approach is pure Mark Millar, the comic's prolific creator. Millar can be an entertaining comics writer, but he's also hugely up himself when he blathers along on comments like "Watchmen isn't that realistic – there's a big blue guy with his dick out, you know?" Kick-Ass is hardly a model of realism either. Millar's work is all about the action-movie kick - which he does very well in stuff like "Wanted," "The Ultimates" and "The Authority." Frankly, I'm turned off by Millar's egocentric public persona, but his comics do deliver a punch. But Millar's flaw is that his work rarely engages the heart like it does the fanboy gut, and to me nothing Millar's ever written comes within the range of what Grant Morrison or Alan Moore have done with the genre.
Johnson, in his first big role, makes a mark as Kick-Ass, making this rather clueless do-gooder believable. Cage is marvelous as "Big Daddy," doing a kind of twisted impression of Adam West as Batman in the 1960s TV series. And little Moretz as Hit-Girl just about steals the movie.
But if you find the notion of a 12-year-old girl swearing like a sailor and killing gangsters in assorted inventive ways offensive, "Kick Ass" is probably not the movie for you. It definitely pushes the edge of good taste, but never in a truly sadistic way.
The movie is best when it goes gleefully, goofily over the top, making fun of superheroes but also embracing them in all their colourful glory.