Movie review: 'Kick-Ass' lives up to its name
If you’re going to be audacious enough to call your movie “Kick-Ass,” by god, it had better … well … kick ass. And for the most part, that’s exactly what this blast of fresh air does, as it subversively parodies mainstream comic book fare with the subtlety of a steel-toed boot to the groin.
Based on an eight-part serial comic of the same name by Mark Millar (“Wanted”), “Kick-Ass” works on about a half-dozen levels, from its astute observations on celebrity worship to thrilling action sequences that are as violent as they are funny.
It’s my favorite film of the year – so far. But that said, I can’t fully recommend it to the zeitgeist, especially those who cling to the sanctity of political correctness and how it relates to an 11-year-old killing machine named Mindy Macready.
Fanboys know her better by her pseudonym, Hit Girl, and she’s undoubtedly the cutest, sweetest assassin to ever launch a pair of ninja throwing stars into a villain’s jugular.
As the blood spurts, so does the killer kid’s effervescent personality, which comes courtesy of Chloe Grace Moretz, a rampant scene-stealer with a naturalness in front of the camera that actresses 20 years her senior still haven’t mastered.
As she proved in “(500) Days of Summer,” she also can hold her own opposite far more experienced actors. But what about a force like Nicolas Cage, equally terrific as her revenge-obsessed father, Big Daddy?
Surely, she’ll wilt in Cage’s larger-than-life presence. Fat chance. Even he is no match for Moretz’s exuberance; most likely because he can’t keep up with her, as Hit Girl literally bounces off the walls like a monkey hopped up on amphetamines. And she’s almost always doing it grasping razor-sharp implements to be thrust into the skulls, torsos and any other available space on the passel of bad guys helpless to stop the violet-haired terror.
It’s as funny as hell, not to mention adrenalin pumping to behold. But the PC police are having a hissy fit over it, along with her free use of the F and C words. Normally, I’d agree that the character goes too far, but the movie’s tone is so tongue-in-cheek and the element of absurdity so high, it’s impossible to take seriously.
Besides, her precocious behavior is systematic of Big Daddy’s bad parenting. Instead of buying her dolls and ribbons, he has furnished their modest abode with automatic weapons, knives and a bazooka. Yes, a bazooka! It’s all part of a warped style of child rearing that would pride Angela Lansbury’s character from “The Manchurian Candidate.”
Like Laurence Harvey in that Frankenheimer classic, Mindy has been brainwashed into becoming a lethal weapon. But she’s not a cog in a plan to overthrow the government; just a ruthless drug cartel run by nefarious family man Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong from “Sherlock Holmes”).
He and Big Daddy have a history that goes back years, and Mindy is an integral part of his elaborate plan to bring Frank to his knees. But just as they’re about to move in for the kill, up pops the other half of this kinky tale, Kick-Ass.
Who is Kick-Ass? That’s the question the entire nation is asking after a YouTube video capturing him vanquishing a gang of thugs goes viral. I have it on good authority that the dude’s real name is Dave Lizewski (a perfectly cast Aaron Johnson), a high school nerd and comic book aficionado out to prove that even an ordinary guy can be a superhero if he puts his mind to it.
In essence, he’s Spider-Man, albeit in a dorky green wetsuit and minus the web slinging wrists. He even has his own Mary Jane in the unapproachable high school hottie Katie Deauxma (the stunningly beautiful Lyndsy Fonseca), who is under the mistaken impression he’s gay. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, particularly when it gains him the opportunity to provide her with full body massages during their many sleepovers.
See, I told you this movie was politically incorrect.
It’s also quite busy in terms of plotting and characters, just like every other comic book flick. But what other comic book movie boasts the presence of Christopher Mintz-Plasse, aka McLovin’ from “Superbad”? He plays D’Amico’s nerdy son, Chris, a warped variation of James Franco’s character from the “Spider-Man” series, except McLovin’s goes Franco one better by transforming into Red Mist, Kick-Ass’ chief rival.
They’re budding feud is the main focus of the movie, but the characters that truly compel are Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Costumed to resemble Batman (with black cowl and a cadence reminiscent of Adam West) and Robin (with effete mannerisms and raccoon mask), the pair grows quite endearing. And despite the cartoonish nature of the characters, Cage and Moretz instill them with enough humanity to make their extremely odd relationship quite moving.
Credit that to director Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake”) and his writing partner, Jane Goldman (“Stardust”), who’ve created a wholly original story that emphasizes comedy and action, but heightens the mayhem by injecting it with real emotion.
The beauty of the movie, though, lies in its ability to be about things much bigger than just a comic book revenge yarn; delving into issues of dubious celebrity (as seen through Kick-Ass gaining fame for work that was actually perpetrated by Hit Girl and her dad), and persons unwilling to get involved when they see people in trouble.
Like the rubbernecks in the movie, we’re more likely to use our cells to record the murder and mayhem before our eyes than use the same phone to call the police.
That’s the ultimate message of “Kick-Ass,” but what makes it a must see is the immense fun to be derived from watching it with a theater full of cheering fanatics, all energized by the heroics of Hit Girl and Kick-Ass, two of the most unlikeliest and unforgettable crime fighters ever. Thanks to them, comic book movies will never be the same again.
Patriot Ledger writer Al Alexander may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
KICK-ASS (R for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use – some involving children.) Cast includes Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz, Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Strong. Co-written and directed by Matthew Vaughn. 3.5 stars out of 4.