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April 28, 2010

Kick-Ass: Movie Review

Monday nights are good movie nights, because the crowds are rarely large for even the most successful films. Last Monday, we took advantage of that to go see Kick-Ass, the new movie from director Matthew Vaughn (Stardust, Layer Cake). It's based on the comic book of the same name, and it's a really great movie.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a high school student who's the typical nerd: likes comic books, hangs out with a couple of similar friends, girls pretty much ignore him and he gets bullied by the tougher guys at school too. (Hey, without the bullying part, that's basically me in high school, and he's got my name, too!) Dave suddenly starts wondering why nobody's ever tried to become a superhero before, and he decides to do it himself. He buys a green wetsuit and mask and calls himself "Kick-Ass."

He becomes a sensation, but is soon made to look completely ordinary when Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) show up to defend him from getting his ass kicked. Unfortunately, Kick-Ass has stumbled into the middle of a war between these two vigilantes and a mob kingpin named Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). Does he have what it takes to be a true hero?

Sadly, there wasn't enough Big Daddy and Hit Girl in the movie, as they steal the show every time they come on screen. Moretz is an 11-year-old actress, and the character she plays is a foul-mouthed dynamo of violence and acrobatics. Taught well by her father to deal death and take revenge on their enemies, she hasn't had any real childhood to speak of. This is the relationship that was worth examining, and it sometimes gets lost in the high school antics of Dave and his compatriots. It's never totally off the radar screen, though.

There has been some controversy about Hit Girl's extreme violence and vulgarity, but I think that says something about the characters upbringing. As for corrupting the actress herself, I love her take on the whole thing in Macleans magazine:

"It's a role—it's not meant to be taken as real life. I was raised to think cursing makes you look unintelligent. As ChloĆ«, I can honestly say I've never uttered a syllable of a curse word, not even behind closed doors."

I love the quirkiness behind Kick-Ass, with good little asides about the comics genre ("With no power comes no responsibility...though that's not true"). It's a funny movie with some great dialogue, but there's also a wonderful comment on society behind the whole thing too, and it hits both sides. On one side, you have Big Daddy and Hit Girl, extremely violent (the blood flows liberally when they're around). Some might say they are psychopaths who exemplify the "law and order" types taken to the extreme.

On the other hand, they also represent a statement that true evil does exist in the world, and that it must be fought without any hand-wringing or trying to understand it. They just must be dealt with.  While Kick-Ass feels the same, it's obvious that idealism alone won't work, without a little muscle and willingness to get dirty behind it.

Personally, I think both sides are valid.

How does it work as a movie, though? I think it works wonderfully, though again Cage and Moretz steal the movie. Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), the girl Dave has the hots for, is totally undeveloped and her change in attitude really doesn't have the greatest foundation. The same goes for the other high school characters. While they're funny, they just don't seem three-dimensional. They're even less than sidekicks sometimes.

Frank D'Amico is fairly one-dimensional too, though Strong does play him very well, giving him much more depth than the script does.  He gets to snarl a lot, which Strong is definitely good at.  I feel bad for him, though, as the shooting of the confrontation between D'Amico and Hit Girl had to have been hard.  How do you fight an 11-year-old girl?  Kudos to both actors as well as the rest of the behind the scenes crew for making that fight look *very* realistic.

All that being said about the characters, the movie is just fun to watch, and you might take away something as well.  Kick-Ass himself is the perfect foil for the other two heroes, as he is the crusader who wants nothing more than to stand up for the little guy and against the bullies of the world.  The script is funny, there are a few in-jokes that are hilarious if you catch them, and the rest of the dialogue is top-notch as well.

It is very violent and there is a lot of bad language (not just from Hit Girl), so be warned.  It's rated R for a reason.  But if you are old enough, or if you think your teenager can handle it, it's a great movie to see.


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