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A blog for poetry, prose, and pop culture.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Movie Review: Kick-Ass!

Hey all,

One of the perks of being a very loyal customer of my comic book shop, Atomic Comics, payed off in a big way today, with an invitation to watch a very early advance screening of the new comic book adaptation of Kick-Ass, starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, and Nicolas Cage. Based on Marvel Comics creator owned Icon imprint by writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita, Jr, it's a decidedly different take on the super hero genre. Some people may be familiar with writer Mark Millar's previous comic book film adaptation, Wanted, a violently dark take on super powered killing. Here in Kick-Ass, Millar has eschewed super powers and replaced them with honesty, well for the most part. Kick-Ass is a very honest, and often brutal, take on what super heroes would look like in the real world. Often times, its not pleasant.

The film is directed by Matthew Vaughn, no stranger to adapting comics to films, whose previous directorial credits including adapting Neil Gaimen's fantasy tale Stardust to the screen. While I felt that Vaughn missed a lot of what made Stardust special, he really went back to the basics of film making, channeling more of the grittiness from his first film, the caper flick Layer Cake. With Kick-Ass Vaughn and company do something that few super hero movies have managed to do, create characterization not through drawn out emoting, but through actions. The more each character tries or pushes at challenges, the more we grow to love them. Without delving into trite in fighting or pouting, the team manages to create characters who are funny, sad, poignant, and honest all at once.

Kick-Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), your typical high school schlub. Not popular or well-liked, struggling with bullies and an apparent invisibility to the opposite sex. A big fan of comic books, one day he wonders why nobody in history has ever really tried to become one. Just one person out trying to help people. He decides that he should be first. After ordering a a wet suit online, he adapts it to become the masked vigilante, Kick-Ass! The problem is, Dave doesn't really have any training and after confronting two bullies, he learns the hard way that it won't be as easy as he thought.

Meanwhile, two other people have begin a quest for vengeance themselves, Nic Cage as Big Daddy, a Batman-esque vigilante, and his foul mouth 12 year old daughter, Hit-Girl. They are after crime boss Frank D'Amico, the man who framed Big Daddy and sent him to prison, the resulting stress of which cost his wife to take her life after giving birth to his daughter. The duo think Kick-Ass has potential when they run across him trying to take down one of D'Amico's men, a situation of which Kick-Ass is vastly outclassed.

The film really culminates as D'Amico's son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse{McLovin of Superbad}) poses as the masked vigilante, Red Mist, to get closer to Kick-Ass, whom D'Amico believes has been killing his men due to the Internet popularity that Kick-Ass has achieved. Not realizing that both Big Daddy and Hit-Girl are the real culprits. Eventually this leads to a final dramatic confrontation with D'Amico, with Kick-Ass caught in the middle.

What I loved about this movie was the great blend of humor and horror they show. Some of the fights and beatings that happen are brutal, its a dark kind of gallows humor in the sheer honestly of reality. Though truth be told, much of Kick-Ass's life outside of the suit is rife with comedy, especially the sub-plot of the girl of Dave's dreams thinking that he is gay and him playing along to get closer. What I thought was really good though was the films ability to finally make a really good nerdy character that isn't just a copy of the kind of role Michael Cera plays in Superbad. Here is a fully realized character with great flaws and pathos, that isn't just a copy.

Plus Chloe Grace Moretz turns in one of my favorite performances ever as Hit-Girl. Foul mouthed and ready to fight, she steals every scene she is in throughout the film, no small task considering the talent around her. She says and does things that should have easily gave that movie an NC 17 rating, but her role is so fun and refreshing you can't help but want to see more of her on the screen. One of the few things in the film that doesn't really stay based on reality is her fighting prowess, that her training and focus easily have her killings scores of men, but even Hit-Girl has to face the truth at the end of the movie, in another brutal beat down.

The best thing I can say about the movie is that the film tries to stay grounded in reality. While Hit-Girl is a whirling dervish of fighting, it's hearkens more to traditional wire work fighting and stunts rather than the huge spectacle and CG effects of a movie like Transformers. It stays true to the honesty of the world it has created, while sometimes taking liberties, it never let's the audience outside of this more or less real world. From the beatings that the casts take, to the violence of the action sequences, you are never cheated.

I can't really make any complaints about the film. It does such a good job of fleshing out the characters, from Dave's friends to Nic Cage's eclectic take on Big Daddy, channeling a kind of cross between William Shatner and Adam West, they are all great. I also think in terms of Cage's performance, a little bit of Nic goes a long way. He doesn't overpower the film with his performance, he gives it just enough drama and humor while never taking the focus of the hero. Even the cheesy costumes play to the movie. In real life, you wouldn't have all the gadgets that a Batman does, in this world costumes would probably look like the ones they wore.

take the time to catch Kick-Ass when it drops this April and enjoy the red band trailer I put up top. This is just a small reason why I liked this flick so much. I don't usually put trailers up with the movie, but in this case with the opening being so far out, some of you may not be as knowledgeable about this movie. If you love action and comedy, and a little bit of foul mouthed violence, I recommend checking out Kick-Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughn. The best film of the year so far.

End of Line.

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