Author: Kyle Byrd
Official Movie Site: kickass-themovie.com
KICK-ASS is the story of a nerdy high school kid named Dave (played by Aaron Johnson), who becomes obsessed with the idea of becoming a real life superhero. While his friends laugh at the idea, Dave becomes determined to prove that such a feat is possible. He orders a wetsuit online and becomes Kick-Ass. While he doesn’t do much of what his name would imply, he becomes an Internet sensation practically overnight.
On the other end of the spectrum are Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter Hit-Girl (Chloe Moritz), who he has trained to become a vigilante killing machine like himself. Big Daddy is working on taking down the group of mobsters responsible for his wife’s death. The mobsters are lead to believe that Kick-Ass is to blame for their current difficulties. Subplots develop from there including a blooming romance with Dave’s crush from school, as well as the mob boss’s son becoming the hero Red Mist (SUPERBAD’s Christopher Charles Mintz-Plasse) to help draw Kick-Ass, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl out to be caught by his father.
Based on Mark Millar’s graphic novel of the same name, KICK-ASS is an extremely fun, crowd-pleasing film with great action scenes and inspired direction. Director Matthew Vaugh (STARDUST, LAYER CAKE) keeps the pace up rather nicely and shows competence when it comes to action scenes. He never falls into the “shaky-cam” trap that so many current action films do. There are a lot of interesting visual touches in the film. One scene that stands out is a scene of exposition detailing Big Daddy’s backstory. It is done all in still illustrations and feels like you’re watching a comic book with a voiceover. It was a clever way to get all of his backstory out of the way in a quick and efficient manner without killing the pace of the film.
The cast of KICK-ASS all give very good performances. I usually can’t stand Nicolas Cage, but his character was the one I found to be the most interesting and compelling. This is a true testament to Cage’s performance as well as Vaughn’s direction. This is definitely his best performance since ADAPTATION (2001). His chemistry with Chloe Moretz is fantastic and he hilariously channels Adam West when he’s suited up as Big Daddy. Chloe Moretz is a revelation as Hit-Girl. She will most likely become an icon (and probably a popular Halloween costume) after this film. Aaron Johnson gives a worthy performance as Kick-Ass, but is easily overshadowed by Cage and Moretz who are the real showstoppers here.
While there is certainly more good than bad to be found here, I do have a few nitpicks with the film. The script certainly shows its seams. The villains are very one-dimensional. The mobster henchmen seem like lazily written cartoon mobsters rather than people to be feared. The biggest problem with the script is that key relationships in the plot seem underwritten at times. Like many films based on multi-issue graphic novels, Kick-Ass struggles to juggle its many subplots. The romance between Dave and Katie comes off as ham fisted and irrelevant. Dave’s relationship with his father is an afterthought. Chris wants to be in his father’s business, but we are never allowed to see what their relationship is truly like.
With that said, even though these characters are a bit underdeveloped, all the actors give decent performances with what they have to work with. Personally, I would have liked to see more scenes delving into Big Daddy’s psychosis. This is a guy who has warped his daughter into a child version of the Punisher and we never learn much about the moral compass of their complex relationship. After so many scenes of him nonchalantly talking to his daughter about murdering people, it would have been great to explore that side of their relationship more. We get a glimpse of it when his friend accuses him of brainwashing his daughter, but the matter is never followed up on. While these flaws in the storytelling stick out, the dialogue is delivered realistically and earnestly, which earns the film major points in the writing department.
The only other main issue with the film is the tone. It simply doesn’t always know what it wants to be. One second the film is a light teen comedy, the next minute it’s a gritty mob film, and the next it’s a superhero spoof. Some scenes deliver violence realistically, quickly, and cringe-worthy and literally seconds later its used for laughs. Are we supposed to be cringing or laughing at the brutality? With a film like this, the tone of the violence is an integral part of the film. It’s as if Vaughn didn’t know whether to have us cheering at the violence or wincing at it, so he simply took both approaches. All these elements probably could have been blended better with a script polish or two. Instead, the tonal shifts come off as rather jarring. Another minor problem I had was the narration. It never serves much purpose since it describes exactly what is being shown on screen. Thankfully, it’s not used much.
While flaws certainly exist, in reality these are merely nitpick. KICK-ASS is full of spectacular action, great performances, thoughtful direction, and some truly tense scenes. It has enough in jokes to satisfy anybody with a passing knowledge of comic book heroes. It is most certainly one of the better superhero films as of late. It’s hard to imagine a fan of the superhero genre not having a blast watching KICK-ASS.