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Kick-Ass An Often Funny and Fun Spin on the Comic Genre

Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman from the comic book by Mark Millar and John S. Romita Jr.
Lionsgate, 2010

A few years ago, Matthew Vaughn was set to direct X-Men: The Last Stand, but had to pull out, paving the way for every fanboy’s dartboard target Brett Ratner.  Vaughn, fresh off the accolades of Layer Cake, was being pegged as one of the new indie guys who could bring a lot to the table in a major studio production, a la Christopher Nolan and Sam Raimi.  Vaughn’s last feature was the under-seen Stardust.

Spinning the comic genre is not exactly new.  In fact, it now can be considered its own genre at this point.  Notable entries include The Incredibles, Pixar’s winning, now-classic offering, Sky High, another good one which put superheroes in a Harry Potter setting, and then there’s My Super Ex-Girlfriend: you can’t win them all.

Kick-Ass has long been churning controversy ever since a red-band trailer became available showing young Chloe Moretz using words that even the most “daring” of comedies have never allowed kids to employ.  Not to mention the fact that her character slices and dices a whole bunch of bad guys in a whirlwind of violence also not likely perpetrated by a child onscreen in the history of cinema.  There’s no doubt that your enjoyment of this movie hinges on whether or not you’ll be offended by seeing her do these things and have some of these things done to her, because Chloe Moretz is the biggest reason to see this movie.

Our main character is Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson).  He’s a nerd, gets picked on at his high school, the usual.  He has a couple of loser friends, Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters), and is quick to point out he’s not even the funny one of that group.  Dave has a crush on school hottie Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), who early on in the film starts hanging out with him believing he’s gay.  Dave wonders out loud why no one, not even an eccentric, rich loner, has ever tried to be a superhero for real, and as Marty helpfully explains, “Because they’d get their ass kicked!  They’d die in like, one day.”

Dave, like a guy who needs to be committed, pronto, orders a superhero suit and actually starts training, thinking a couple of batons are all he needs to go out there and fight crime.  He calls himself Kick-Ass.  And much like Marty forewarned, he gets his ass kicked, and nearly dies, in his first encounter.  It’s after this Dave has a lot of metal put into his body, which seems to fortify him, and it starts making some sense that he goes out there again and actually has some success.  His exploits get on YouTube, and suddenly he’s a sensation.  Meanwhile, a father and daughter team see him as a means by which to disguise their own good deeds.  Former cop Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage), aka Big Daddy, and his eleven-year-old, Mindy (Moretz), as Hit-Girl.  Damon has been training his daughter in a hardcore fashion, giving her knowledge of weapons and even practicing getting shot with a bulletproof vest.  She’s also picked up some salty language, to which her dad doesn’t even bat an eye.

The Macreadys want to take down mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), who has a son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who wants to enter into the family business.  D’Amico’s men have been getting clipped at a very high rate thanks to Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, but the killings have been attributed to Kick-Ass.  Chris decides to become Kick-Ass’s sidekick, Red Mist, in order to gain his trust and later take him down and please his father.  With Kick-Ass now corresponding with the Macgreadys, Red Mist could prove dangerous to the entire operation.

First things first: The character of Kick-Ass actually becomes less and less something you want to see once you see the “real” superheroes of Big Daddy and especially Hit-Girl.  A very interesting story is right there with the father and daughter, and it could have been just them the entire time.  Sure, we get the natural story arc that the nerds will identify with and want to make them buy tickets with Dave/Kick-Ass, and that’s probably how the original comic hooked readers, but Big Daddy and Hit Girl will be what everyone is talking about later.

Nicolas Cage plays perfectly nerdy, adding a hiccup-like laugh to anything that amuses him, usually things he says himself.  He allows this movie to not be about him, willing to stand in the background, and for this it’s a great performance.  Now Moretz: her character Hit-Girl, aided by slick editing as it is, is the absolute giddiest reason to watch the movie.  The way she darts through a room, slicing and dicing, like a bloodthirsty rodent everyone hopelessly chases, kind of like the bunny in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is great fun.  You’ll be laughing and horrified at the same time.  And yeah, there’s a mouth on her, although it’s not nearly as profanity-laced as you might have been told, but sure, she says some things you don’t expect from an eleven-year-old.  Half of comedy is delivery, and Moretz nails it.

The movie starts off a bit slow and you might not find it all that amusing for awhile.  You get some occasional laughs, but it finally finds it’s rhythm and once it does, you’ll be enthralled for the entire second hour.  Much like The Incredibles, it may be a spin on a genre, but it eventually willingly enters into that genre.  Think Edgar Wright’s films Hot Fuzz and Shaun of the Dead (and soon, another spin on the comic genre, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World), how they mock, then become the very thing that they’re mocking.  Overall, Kick-Ass is worth a look, even more so if you can get around the controversy.

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