Kick-Ass (2010) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Kick-Ass (2010)

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Kick-Ass is a lame attempt at deconstructing the comic book movie genre further than it already has been.  It comes across as a shallow version of The Watchmen directed by those fine fellas that used to do those Jackass stunts.  There’s little to be happy about while you’re watching and a lot to feel creeped out by.  We live in a time where comic book movies have produced some of the best films of the last few years.  The best that all the talent could come up with is comic cinema's idiotic cousin.

Kick-Ass, first published through Marvel Comics by writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr., is mostly unchanged from the comic.  Dave Lizewski (Johnson), inspired by a conversation he had with his friends, decides to throw on a mask and fight crime.  He is beaten pretty badly for this and ends up in the hospital a few times, but inspires an internet community to do the same - eventually fighting against the crime syndicate led by Frank D’Amico (Strong).  Branding himself Kick-Ass, he continues to battle crime very poorly until the costumed mass murderers/supposed heroes, Hit Girl (Moretz) and her father Big Daddy (Cage), make themselves known.  It’s at about this point that Kick-Ass stops being boring and starts being unfathomably dumb.

Vaughn and Goldman take a decidedly cartoonier take on the material than Millar and Romita Jr. and the movie suffers a lot because of this.  There’s no way to balance the horrific actions of the wannabe superheroes with the amount of style thrown at the screen.  They’re competently handled, and the scene where Kick-Ass first helps someone is actually close to being genuinely affecting.  But it’s a rare moment of selflessness that is not completely undone by the soundtrack or flashy karate tricks.

The gangster scenes that pepper the movie highlight how terrible the script is.  There’s not a single line of dialogue that hasn’t been reproduced elsewhere and has one of those hilarious accidental death scenes lifted straight from Pulp Fiction.  Vaughn seems to expect these scenes to coast by on empty style and references to other gangster movies but they’re out of place and serve as a long, boring detraction from the plot.

The only bright spot in Kick-Ass is Nicholas Cage, but even that doesn’t last very long.  Big Daddy’s opening scene with Hit Girl, as he teaches her how to take a bullet, is a strangely funny take on this unconventional father/daughter team that somehow works in a minute and a half burst.  However we have to deal with him for a lot longer than that.  When he dons his Big Daddy get up, and starts adopting some of Adam West’s old mannerisms, the shtick grows old very fast.  He's given the thankless task of being the emotional spark in this film due to some late movie plot twists that never feel like they're on the same planet as the rest of the film.

As his daughter, Chloe Moretz is in the unfortunate position of trying to work with the role of a preteen serial killer trying to be a super hero.  It’s not one that she succeeds at, but it’s not entirely her fault.  Scenes of her bopping around, mercilessly killing people while the soundtrack blares a poppy “ra ra” cheerleader anthem give off a profoundly creepy vibe.  They can’t even be enjoyed as cartoony fun because of how violent they are.  Kick-Ass himself is barely worth mentioning.  Aaron Johnson has almost zero screen presence and exists as a strange vacuum for these costumed killers instead of being a force in anyone’s life.  Being an every man doesn't mean that you have to be as interesting as plank wood.

We only have Vaughn to blame for this complete mess of a film.  It has no idea what it wants to satirize because it wants to feel above the comic material and embrace it at the same time.  Successful films develop and maintain a sense of tone throughout the entirety of their run.  Having a grim and dour flashback immediately following masturbation jokes and bright, colorful action sequences is not something to be done lightly.  Here Vaughn thrusts us again and again from one mood to the next without any thought as to what his poor audience might be going through.

Had Vaughn approached the material with some of sense of gravity, he might have produced something that asks genuine questions about what we get from these superhero stories.  Instead he produced a slick, flashy video game wannabe.  A stronger filmmaker might have asked for those hard answers, but Vaughn is content with what he has - a vapid, unnecessary, depressing experience masquerading as a piece of novelty entertainment.

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Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass is directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman
Starring Aaron Johnson, Nicholas Cage, Chloe Moretz, and Mark Strong

Posted by Andrew

Comments (4) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I enjoyed the movie, I can see not liking this film if you don’t like the original story, but it seemed that you liked the comic. I thought they adapted Millar’s work well and was much closer to his voice than Wanted was in 2008.

  2. Really? You didn’t love this movie? The scene where the dad shoots his daughter in the chest totally made it for me. That 11 year old girl is my new role model. If I could live to be 1/4th as awesome as that girl, I would be set for life!

  3. @Ryan – The movie is infinitely more cartoony than the comic. However flippant Millar’s approach is to storytelling, Romita’s art helped ground the whole thing and give it a far grittier appeal. The story was almost the exact same, but the execution killed the film.

    @Aubrey – Strangely enough that was the only scene between the two of them that I thought worked because of how surreal Nic Cage made it all seem. You could probably convince Danny to shoot you in the chest with something if you want to be that awesome.

  4. Kick Ass should have been movie of the year!!

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