I haven’t reviewed Kick-Ass yet. As it’s one of my favourite movies this year, I feel it’s kind of my duty. According to the Roger Ebert Criteria, I have to ask what Kick-Ass wants to be as a movie and find if it did that. For the purpose of this review, and to reflect my standpoint when first watching it, I’m going to assume it’s an adaptation of a comic book by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita, Jr. That seems accurate–they’re credited in the opening, after all. As I read the book before I saw the movie, I expected something far different from what I got.
Roger Ebert hates this movie. He gave it one star, solely because it features an eleven year old girl messily killing dozens of low-level mooks throughout the course of the movie and climaxes in what must have been a shower of gore for some very unlucky New Yorkers. I love this movie because instead of apologizing for the level of onscreen violence, swearing and sexuality, it told me to ████ myself and not bother to wear a condom. I love movies like that. If I came to your movie to see gratuitous violence mixed with high levels of profanity, I don’t want you to cop out and tell me that’s wrong at the end. I want you to reward characters for living that lifestyle.
Kick-Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a normal high schooler from some weird, alternate universe mesh of Toronto and Hamilton that calls itself New York. One day, when out with his friends at a comic shop, he asks the very natural question, “How come nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero before?” His friends give him the quick and logical reply along the lines of “because you’d get your ass killed, retard” and think that’s done with. But the idea has been planted in Dave’s young mind, much like it was in Peter Parker’s after he got spider-powers. Except all Dave has is plucky determination and a really bad supername. The eponymous Kick-Ass gets his ass stabbed and hit by a car in his first real fight, earning him a trip to the hospital. Though it takes months of rehab, he’s left with metal plates over every bone of his body and a deadened sense of pain.
Meanwhile, a young girl named Mindy (Chloë Moretz) is being talked through the experience of getting shot by her father, Damon (Nicolas Cage). I give it to Cage, when he’s acting, he’s on fire. If there is a man alive who can make shooting an 11 year old girl in the chest funnier than it ever ought to be, it’s Nic Cage. These two are already vigilantes, working on taking down mob boss Frank D’Amico. Frank’s son, however, is a comic book geek just like Dave named Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Kick-Ass gets back into the swing of things and his exploits are captured and uploaded onto YouTube. His MySpace gets like, 3000 friends. People in the world who use MySpace: musicians and vigilantes.
This media frenzy, including a monologue by Craig Ferguson on the Late Late Show, inspires Chris, Mindy and Damon to don costumes for various reasons. Quick question, what were all of these families doing up at half past midnight on a weekday? I like Craig Ferguson as much as the next man, but don’t mob bosses and dudes dressed like Batman need sleep?
I should warn you, anybody out there, no one in particular at all, if you didn’t like this movie, this review is about to get glowing. Like, really glowing. Like fanboy raving glowing. If you didn’t like the movie for one of the reasons I liked it, that part appealed to me and not to you. That stuff is taste, and we can both get past that together. Right?
Hit-Girl, the 11 year old girl vigilante, is the character in this movie with the most press. Any review published that’s all for this movie ditches Dave after the recap and spends their time talking about how Chloë Moretz is a fantastic young actor you should keep your eyes on. She is indeed fantastic. The way she switches between innocent schoolgirl and bloodthirsty vigilante implies that to this character, there is no switch. She’s one person, when she goes to school, when she asks for ice cream after going by the bowling alley, when she cuts a man’s legs off with a katana. Moretz is helped by unlikely foil Nicolas Cage, playing a straight man for once. Nicolas Cage took time out of his busy schedule of standing in front of cameras and mumbling to act in this film, and I think you should ████ing acknowledge it. From Big Daddy’s character voice, to his civilian-vs.-vigilante disguise distinction–all Cage’s touches. He put a lot of work into this movie, and I’m happy to say it shows.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse has come a long way from being cast for his real-life awkwardness in Superbad. He plays a damn wide range of scenes as Chris D’Amico, and holds them all up well. When he’s on the verge of weeping, driving Kick-Ass to Safe House B, you’re right there with him. And he’s doing that through a leather supersuit. Kudos, Chris. I look forward to your performance in Kick-Ass: Balls to the Wall.
But the real star of this movie is Aaron Johnson. This guy is magnificent. For one, he’s English. That performance you so handily ignored, Mr. Straw Critic, was delivered in a Hugh-Laurie impeccable accent. That is nothing atop the brilliant portrayal of boyish optimism and naivety wrapped in the vocabulary and diction of a 17 year old boy. Johnson is the one guiding us through the film’s emotional cues, bewildered when the plot takes a turn, ecstatic when he’s rewarded for his efforts towards heroism. He tries to do right. He tries to be the hero he should be not because he’s bored or because he’s lonely. He just does it because it’s the right thing to do.
Shouldn’t all of our superheros be so? At the end of the day, isn’t this the journey you want your heroes to take? FOUR STARS
(one of these days, I’ll have to review something I didn’t like. NOT YET IT SEEMS)