Monday, April 19, 2010

TEFB Review: Kick-Ass (Juan's take)

Let me start off by saying how excited I was to watch this movie. Ever since I saw the first trailers and clips at last year's Comic Con I knew this was the kind of movie I would enjoy: action packed, interesting characters, funny dialogue and intriguing visuals. Alas, after watching the movie yesterday, I can say I was not pleased with it. At all.

Now, I need to lay some guidelines as to how I review movies, I will strive to uphold myself to these on all of the reviews I make:

1. A movie has to be consistent within it's message. I may not approve with what it has to say but if it makes sense within the story's intent and the character's arcs, I am happy with it.
2. Movies always mean something. They always communicate something and always have an intent. Even the people that say that their project doesn't mean anything are, in my opinion, incorrect or lying. You can never not make a meaning or a judgement on anything. What I believe to be good or bad, right or wrong and my values set will always color the way I review movies.
3. A movie needs to create and maintain the illusion of the world it is creating. If at any point an element of the movie pulls me out of the experience I am having while watching it, someone didn't do their job right. I tend to not like movies that do that. Consistent audio/visual elements are paramount.

That's all I got to say on guidelines, on to the review and why I didn't like this movie.

There are two things that influenced my opinion on the film. I will start with the most obvious to me but maybe the least obvious reason why a person wouldn't like this movie: I don't believe it's message is good or in integrity with it's own logic. Kick-Ass presents a world where violent, cold-hearted, inhumane criminals run the show. They are wealthy, powerful and ruthless and no one has the guts to stand up to them. No one except 16 year old Dave Lizewski who believes things can be different, who believes in a world where people help each other and where regular citizens stand up together to fight against the oppressors. A noble ideal for sure but herein lies Kick-Ass' biggest flaw. The way Dave, who decides to become the crime fighting costumed avenger Kick-Ass, and the rest of the "heroes" (an 11 year old out of reality girl called Hit Girl and her revenge fueled father Big Daddy) stand up to the bad guys is as bloody, ruthless and inhumane as the people they complain about.

Now, I am not a prude. I have watched my share of violent movies in the past. It takes a lot to shock me and honestly there was nothing in this movie that made me feel uncomfortable or repulsed, quite the contrary. It made me bored and numb. There's an inherent flaw with the violence vs violence model... if you use violence to defeat violence you become part of the same group of offenders and, what's even worse, violence not only persists, but it increases. Just take a look down south to my country, Mexico, and you will get all the proof you need to justify this principle. The police-drug lords-mexican army triangle of bloodshed has garnered my country the title of one of the most violent countries in the world. Ciudad Juarez is the most violent city in the world. Despite the amount of money, resources, strategies, counterintelligence, weapons and force that the government has spent, the criminals just one-up them in a blink. And the cycle of violence continues and nothing changes. Only the body count.

In my opinion, this movie promotes a world where our most valuable principle, humanity, is annihilated by the actions our so called "heroes" partake in. The movie starts off with a wonderful idea, a very honorable concept: rising against the violent oppressors and taking a stand. Kick-Ass completely demolishes it's original premise after the first 25minutes of it's running time. After that it became a spectacle of blood, severed limbs, flashing lights and disconnection. I don't know what's scarier: that this type of content is made available to so many people or the jeers and cheers I heard from people in the theater as 11 year old Hit Girl curses, slices, dices and blows people's brains off. Not necessarily in that order. Strike one.

The second thing I disliked about the movie is the way it dealt with it's main character, Dave. I was intrigued and interested by his story arc. I was in. Director Matthew Vaughn decides to harshly change gears and protagonists and focus on Hit Girl and Big Daddy 30 minutes into the movie. Dave (or Kick-Ass in super hero mode) is demoted to wimpy, unclear, vague territory and we are then asked to care about a duo of sociopathic murderers with no grasp on how the real world works. My emotional anchor was gone. Strike two.

Remember, Kick-Ass takes place in the real world, our world. The demented duo appear to operate in a super-hero world. Their martial arts feats are so unrealistic that you will be wondering if indeed these people are not Super Skrulls shapeshisted into regular humans. Again, inconsistent message and set of rules. A big no, no in my book.

Another thing: the movie looks cheap. Strike three, you are out.

By this point, you know where I stand. This is who I am and these are the things I look for in the movies I watch. Is it too much to ask for a movie with a consistent, interesting and hopefully ethical message? I don't think so.

Feel free to comment and check our live review this Thursday April 22nd at 11pm EST on "The Everything Film Show" ( It will be one heck of a discussion. Cya at the movies!



  1. "the movie looks cheap" -- disagree. name one scene that looked cheaper than, oh, I don't know, Spider-Man 3.
    Also disagree with your point about the movie shifting protagonists to Hit Girl and Big Daddy at the 30 minute mark. There is not a complete "shift" to their story. This is an ensemble movie, and each of the features characters and stories show an aspect of the basic premise: Dave wants to stand up as a humanist; HG and BD are out for personal revenge (and look what that gets them); and Red Mist wants to stand up for himself and prove something to his father. Each story reflects around the one theme, so I don't see it as much of a "shift" in the telling of the tail. Going back to Spider-Man 2, we get a lot of Doc Ock, but it's hardly his story. Yet thematically, it matches up -- great power, great responsibility, etc. Also, I am of the opinion that the fact that HG and BD are such supreme badasses hammers home the point -- that this could not happen in the real world, and even the movie trying to show us that it might happen is proving to us that it can't happen. In short, this is where the movie's gone meta. Or you can just read an interview with Matthew Vaughn and realize that it's a movie made to entertain, not be deconstructed and misconstrued.

  2. Hey Sgt. Angle, thanks for posting a comment. In answer to your post:

    Most of the scenes where character's are on top of a building or against a backdrop of the city (supposedly NYC), I could totally tell it was either a matte painting or green screen. The NYC city shots were, to me, clearly stock footage material. Also, the sets felt like they were built inside a studio, especially Frank's penthouse.

    What do you mean when you say all 3 character's storyline revolve around the same theme? To me, each of the 3 story lines have a different theme. Do you mean that the common theme is "standing up" to something?

    To me the fact that HG and BD do superhuman feats directly contradicts the movie's message of a regular person becoming a superhero. BD and HG act as if they just came from the pages of the XMEN. And the final weapon Kick Ass uses? Not very plausible. At all.

    I believe movies are, partly, made for entertainment values but don't believe that exempts them from providing a cohesive, emotional, consistent experience. I am not a believer in the "check your brain at the door and enjoy the popcorn" mentality. The movies I consider great need to leave me with something long lasting.

    Thanks so much for your comments and would love to hear more from you and be sure to listen in to the live review this thursday on the Everything Film Show. Have a great day!


  3. I disagree with Matthew Vaughn's statement that he made the film just to entertain. He's either avoiding having to support any outside interpretations of the film or he's woefully unaware that even filmmakers who make films "just to entertain" have something to say with their finished product. (Except, maybe, Michael Bay, although perhaps he's saying "hey, I really, really, really, really, really like to blow stuff up.")

    Two things I wanted to mention: I honestly didn't know the movie was shot on a shoe-string budget until after I did a little research on the film and found that Matthew Vaughn raised the money for it himself. I think it looks spectacular for a "low-budget" film (save for some shoddy CGI blood work). Then again I think Commando oozes realism, so perhaps I'm not the best judge of that sort of thing.

    Secondly - Juan, you mentioned this: "To me the fact that HG and BD do superhuman feats directly contradicts the movie's message of a regular person becoming a superhero." I have to disagree. I skimmed the surface of this in my reply to Jeff's review, but I'll go a little deeper this time. In the film, David (a regular person) *does* become a superhero. Sure he does it in a way that's unrealistic in *our* world, but is totally consistent with the world and tone that the film sets up. It's like making a film that centers on a citizen of Gotham City who has the same motivations and lack of training as David and then, halfway through the film, having them team up with Batman. At the end of the film, David does indeed get to live his dream.

    I think what a lot of people are getting caught up on is the fact that Vaughn sets up the film at the beginning as being an examination of what it would be like if an ordinary person tried to be a superhero. Well, the ordinary person wouldn't make it too far. A 2 hour movie with David getting his ass kicked would be boring. So in come Big Daddy and Hit Girl, and the ordinary person is *forced* to see what it's really like to be a superhero. David gets to live his dream, the audience gets to see some well-staged action sequences, and everyone goes home happy.