Mark Reviews Movies

KICK-ASS

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Matthew Vaughn

Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Lyndsy Fonseca, Clark Duke, Evan Peters

MPAA Rating: R (for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use - some involving children)

Running Time: 1:57

Release Date: 4/16/10


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Review by Mark Dujsik | April 15, 2010

Lifting the veil on the mystique of the costumed crime fighter, Kick-Ass reveals a frightening, ugly core.

"How come nobody's ever tried to be a superhero," the nerdy, lanky hero of the movie asks his friends, as he himself is contemplating doing just that. The main answer, of course, is that such a normal individual in the real world would have his/her ass handed to them on a platter, beaten to a pulp, or worse. The only one way around such an outcome, the movie argues, is for a person to undergo drastic reconstructive surgery, replacing or reinforcing most of the individual's bones with metal. Another aftereffect is that the person is now oblivious to some of the most severe pain.

This is how Dave (Aaron Johnson), a regular-old teenager who reads comics, has heightened hormones, and crushes on the girl of his dreams Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), fills the absent social niche of the ordinary-man-cum-superhero. His story is one of innocent naïveté, good intentions, and the importance of social networking sites in spreading one's reputation, finding job opportunities, and discovering others in the same line of work.

This is the story Kick-Ass begins as. It takes the common route of superhero origin and twists in a sense of reality (His mom was not murdered by a future nemesis but died of natural causes, his neighborhood is full of stealing, assaultive thugs, and crime goes silently watched by the neighbors). Dave's story, in other words, is involving for its sense of righteousness with the proper motivation and fun for its variations on a familiar plot.

Then the story introduces another loophole to avoiding a massive beat-down from baddies. His name is Damon (Nicolas Cage); his alias is Big Daddy. Big Daddy is a sociopath.

His office/arsenal is full of every weapon one could possibly imagine, a comic he drew detailing his backstory, and plans for wreaking havoc upon the mob boss (Mark Strong) who, in his mind, ruined his life. Unlike Dave, Big Daddy did lose a loved one due to violence. After he was wrongfully thrown in prison on false charges raised by the Mafioso, Big Daddy's pregnant wife committed suicide. The baby survived, and she is now his sidekick Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). In their introductory scene, Big Daddy is showing his daughter how a bullet affects a bullet-proof vest. She's wearing it, and he's firing the gun (In this world, there's apparently no Department of Child Services).

Both Dave and Big Daddy wear makeshift costumes (Dave wears a diving suit; Damon looks a lot like Batman, hence Cage's Adam West impression), assume noms de guerre (Dave's is the titular Kick-Ass), and search for wrong-doing. Dave wants to help those who are in need of aid (He even goes on the prowl for a missing cat, before stumbling on a man being attacked by a bunch of goons). Big Daddy serves his own sense of entitlement to retribution. Dave carries batons and, before teaming up with Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, attacks only after being provoked. Big Daddy kills anyone and everyone associated with the mob boss he can find.

Director Matthew Vaughn washes the movie in vicious, gory violence. On its own merits, the bloodshed is not problematic, but the motivation that propels it is. Big Daddy, in his superhero guise, is meant as a comparison to Dave, and yet there's more evidence tying him thematically to the mob boss. In one scene, the villain has his henchmen interrogate a possible rat inside an industrial microwave, and soon after, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl question one of the boss' hoodlums as he sits in a car that they've placed inside a compactor. Needless to say, things don't turn out well for the men in the microwave and car. The methods are similar, as is the expected effect for the audience, waiting for the inevitable, bloody results.

Dave begins his career as a masked avenger with a certain purity of intent, but then his adventures go viral, hitting the web and local news. Even the mob boss' son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) follows the trend but as part of a plan to ultimately take over his dad's business. Big Daddy and Hit-Girl see potential in Kick-Ass, ultimately manipulating him to falling into their brand of vigilantism—forcing their warped sense of justice upon others.

Kick-Ass works early on while focusing on Dave's story, but Big Daddy defines the movie's unpleasant soul. In that sense, it makes a solid argument that it's good for society as a whole that no one tries to become a superhero.

Copyright © 2010 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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