Kick-Ass

A Review by The Mike

Starring: Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, Clark Duke, Mark Strong
Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Rated:R for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use – some involving children
Movie Released: 2010
IMDB Link

Over the past half-decade, March and April have become the go to months for studios to dump R-rated films full of brutal comic action – a trend that at least goes back to 2004 and Kill Bill Vol. 2. If you’re looking for graphic films from graphic sources, you then could look back to 2005’s release of Sin City, 2006’s V for Vendetta, 2007’s 300, and 2009’s Watchmen. The 2007 release of Rodriguez & Tarantino’s Grindhouse, while not a comic adaptation, fits this mold too, and one could work to trace the trend back to 1999 and the ground-breaking phenomenon that was The Matrix.
Now we’re deep into April 2010, and Marvel Comics’ newest sensation, Kick-Ass, is the next contender to step into the ring. While Kick-Ass has garnered a lot of shock and awe from people, mostly due to its name and the fact that it features young people committing violent acts, I’d argue that Kick-Ass is a relatively tame film next to most of this breed.

The plot of Kick-Ass is a simple send up of the superhero tales you’ve become used to over the past decade. A youngster with little supervision decides he wants to change things, puts on a costume, and hits the streets in search of justice. This self-proclaimed hero, Kick-Ass (played by Aaron Johnson), gets noticed by the local crime kingpin (Sherlock Holmes’ Mark Strong) via the media, which leads to further violence. This begins to make things difficult for previously established costumed avenger Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his well-trained daughter Mindy, aka Hit-Girl.

Hit-Girl, played by then 12-year-old Chloe Grace Moretz, is the focal point of the film to both the fanboys and detractors that it has spawned, and understandably so. Moretz is asked to portray the kind of foul-mouthed and brutally violent young woman that hasn’t been seen since The Exorcist, and this time there’s no supernatural force at work that drives the character. Hit-Girl, at the behest of her dear old wrongly-convicted parolee daddy, simply offers up brutality because she is trained to. It could be a scary character, if the movie weren’t so clearly a comic adventure designed for the masses.

As for the on-screen violence, Director Matthew Vaughn appears to go to lengths to avoid directly showing Hit-Girl dealing out justice most of the time. Scenes involving her are often filmed in a frantic manner Vaughn surely honed while working with Guy Ritchie in his early career, and he often resorts to a dark shot or knives flying from off screen to convey her effect. I’m sure a lot of this had to do with pleasing the MPAA, but I’d also assume that it’s partially to save the strain on Ms. Moretz, who appears to show no emotional scarring due to the character’s violence in her recent media tour.

Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are the most interesting parts of the film, by far. Cage gives a perfectly silly performance as the affection father/Adam West-impersonator, and the casting of someone who has such an interest in comic heroes adds credibility to the proceedings. On the other hand, Johnson isn’t an extremely talented actor in the lead and Strong and Superbad’s Christopher Mintz-Plasse (as the villain’s son) seem to have been asked to fit the roles they’ve been typecast into over recent years. None of the other supporting characters are given any depth aside from some “The father is distant!”, “The girl is sexual!”, or “The teacher has boobs!” moments that define them.

Kick-Ass is a blast while it’s on-screen, but it seems to teeter too closely to becoming the average comic film for my taste. There’s little in plot or style that distinguishes it from the comic films that have filled the last decade, aside from the characters’ ages. Most of this comes from the character Kick-Ass, who’s little more than a kid who wants to fight back against something, but is never really developed enough for the viewer to care about him completely.

This might be a case of me having seen too many ridiculous and violent movies and being a bit desensitized, but Kick-Ass rarely struck me as something that was firing on all cylinders when anyone but Moretz and/or Cage were onscreen. The film works, thanks to them and the indifference to comic violence that Vaughn installs in it, but is definitely a flawed piece of comic cinema with a few dud characters and no deeper meaning beneath the surface. I might have expected something more socially relevant than what I got, but that shouldn’t deter anyone from seeing Kick-Ass if they’re looking for a violent distraction with a couple of standout performances.

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This review was written by long time staff member, The Mike. Mike is an avid Movie addict and horror film buff. He writes reviews on his own blog, From Midnight, With Love, a site where he delves head first into the best and worst of cult cinema. This review was taken with permission from The Mike and placed on Box Office Boredom.com. You can check out The Mike’s solo project, From Midnight, With Love, by clicking here.

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