Tuesday, April 20, 2010

TEFB Review: Jeff's Kick-Ass Take on "Kick-Ass"

Kick-Ass is the new superhero comedy from Matthew Vaughan, who I’m a big fan of from his stellar work on the film “Stardust.” One of the best fantasy films ever made. Check it out if you haven’t. The only way Vaughan could be cooler is his first name was Michael and then he’d be like the character from “Alias.” Vaughan once again teams with writing partner Jane Goldman to adapt the graphic novel from comic veterans Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.

The best part about this film is Dave, aka Kick-Ass. A geeky kid who decides he’s had enough of dirtbags hurting people and no one doing anything about it. Aaron Johnson is spectacular in the lead role. In fact, I can’t imagine a better casting choice that could have been made. I immediately liked and felt empathy for his character – maybe because I’m a big geek too :) Johnson plays the role to near-perfection: a kid who wants to make a difference and get the girl of his dreams.

The budding relationship between him and Katie (played by the charming Lyndsy Fonseca) is very enjoyable to watch and the two actors have really cool chemistry. In fact, anytime Dave or Dave and Katie were on the screen, I was having a rockin’ time with this flick. But not quite as much when they were not.

Because given nearly as much screen time are Hit-Girl and Big Daddy (Chloe Moretz and Nicolas Cage). And it’s not that I didn’t enjoy those characters or their scenes. But they didn’t impact me the way the main story with Dave did. I couldn’t tell you what the character arcs for Hit-Girl or Big Daddy are. I’m not even sure how essential they are to the story except for adding a bunch of high-octane blood-splattering action scenes. And, yes, all the Hit-Girl scenes are indeed violent. But I’m an action film junkie. So, the violence didn’t turn me off. But I will say I also didn’t think it added anything. Up until the first Hit-Girl killing spree scene, the film was playing as kind of a goofy action-comedy with heart. And I liked that a lot. I would have been perfectly content to have Hit-Girl kick-ass like she did without limbs going flying. I get the juxtaposition: an 11-year-old girl disemboweling people is unique. But does that make it great?

Cause here’s the deal. This is a great concept. A regular kid with no powers and no real training putting on a costume and trying to be a superhero. That idea rocks! Huge props to Millar and Romita, Jr. for coming up with it. And to Vaughan for realizing it would make a great transition to the screen. But I would have loved to have seen even more of the Dave story. That’s the fun part of the film. More importantly, it’s the core of it. Will Dave be able to become a real hero? Will he have what it takes when he realizes how way over his head he is? Will he show people that a completely ordinary guy can have the guts to put his life on the line and help his fellow man? Those are the things that make this film awesome.

In fact, I would have loved it if Vaughan chose to kick-ass with his theme even more. It’s clear from this film that one of the lessons to take away is that sitting around and doing nothing while scumbags fuck people up isn’t cool. Or as one of my favorite proverbs go: “All that’s necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” That’s the perfect theme for this movie. And there was a perfect place to display that. But it wasn’t taken.


When Kick-Ass and Big Daddy are captured by the evil bad guy (his name’s Frank D’Amico but I’m going to call him evil bad guy), they broadcast it on the internet to show the world what happens when people think they can be superheroes and mess with the mob. Everyone’s watching. All Dave’s friends and kids from school. Pretty much everyone in the city. Watches them get tortured by evil bad guy’s good squad. And what I was hoping would happen is that those normal people, his friends, regular citizens, decide they’re not going to let these scumbags kill Kick-Ass – the one guy who had the guts to make a stand. And they somehow rescue him and Big Daddy. That would have been truly kick-ass. And in total support of the theme. And yes, I realize they had no idea where they were being held, but Vaughan and Goldman are awesome writers and could have easily made it work. But instead of that happening, the very predictable scene of Hit-Girl arriving to save the day and unleash mayhem unfolds. Again, enjoyable for what it was. But great movies do things that are unpredictable. They go beyond just being cool.


And that’s the thing. “Kick-Ass” is a good, very fun movie with plenty of comedic moments. But it’s not great. And I’m not saying it has to be. I had a really good time watching it. In fact, I just picked up the graphic novel today and will totally be buying the DVD when it comes out. But IMDb users currently have given the film an 8.5 out of 10, putting it as the 145th best film out of all films ranked on the site. And IMDb users are notorious for not ranking films highly. To give you an idea, “Star Wars” is given an 8.8 and is ranked as the 12th best film. Sorry but “Kick-Ass” is no “Star Wars.” Nor is it anywhere near the top films of all time. What it will give you is an enjoyable, fun ride at the movies. And that’s absolutely enough. But I know how good Vaughan and Goldman are. And I can see how this movie could have been truly great. And completely kicked ass


1 comment:

  1. Hey Jeff -

    I disagree that Dave's "ordinary man rising up against evil" is the core of Kick-Ass. In fact, Vaughn exhausts that angle pretty early in the flick. What happens when Dave puts on the costume? He gets his ass kicked. In fact, he almost dies. That's pretty much what would happen to anyone in Dave's situation (untrained, weak, frail teenager taking on thugs). What Dave does is actually pretty stupid, and he realizes that fairly quickly. He spends more time on Kick Ass's Myspace page then he does fighting crime.

    Also, (and I kind of covered this in my review) what makes the movie interesting is the balance between reality and comic-book reality that it strikes. Dave's world bleeds into Hit Girl's (literally - towards the end she notices her nose is bleeding for what appears to be the first time) and in turn hers bleeds into his (his superhero antics in the last act). Tipping the scales in favor of one tone (either straight realism or over the top cartoon comic) wouldn't have had the same effect, and the film would have been much more ordinary.

    As I said in the comment I left after Jay's review: there are definitely some deep themes about responsibility and actions having consequences.