Kick-Ass (2010) movie poster

(2010) dir. Matthew Vaughn
viewed: 04/18/10 at CineArts @ the Empire Theater, SF, CA

How much ass does Kick-Ass kick?  Or should I say “How much ass would Kick-Ass kick if Kick-Ass did ass kick?”

I’d read extremely praiseful reviews of Kick-Ass both in the local paper and on the English Guardian website, raves really.  And from a couple of friends who’d seen the film before, their Twitter posts tell again, of Kick-Ass kicking ass (You know, it’s sort of a built-in response to a film with that title if you enjoyed it.)  And so, I found myself with perhaps raised expectations.

The film is a play on the superhero mythos and is itself adapted from a comic book.  The idea is that a lanky geeky guy, a comic book nerd, decides that he can be a superhero even without super powers.  He gets himself a funny costume and goes out to fight crime.  Initially, he gets severely injured for his efforts, getting steel plates and dulled nerves after getting knifed and then hit by a car.  But he doesn’t give up and eventually makes it big on the internet when his first successful rescue works out and gets filmed.

Kick-Ass is the first of the superheroes to emerge in the film, inspiring others to start the same as well.  Only, Kick-Ass really has more spirit than skills and when he meets the real deal, namely Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, and real villains, he finds out that his version of superheroing isn’t a fragment of theirs.  They actually DO kick ass.  And very violently.

The best thing about the film, hands down, is Hit-Girl, played by 12 year old Chloë Grace Moretz, cursing like a sailor, eviscerating like a ninja, and with purple wig and mask, is a very near iconic character cut onscreen.  She has been trained by her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), to be a vengeful firestorm, set on executing the entire criminal empire that ruined him.   Moretz, with her supple lips turning to smiles or sneers, is a stand-out.  And Nicolas Cage, offering another very amusing comic role as her weapons and revenge-obsessed father, and full of strong fatherly love (even as he shoots her in her body armor to teach her how to take a bullet), shines here too, speaking in a very funny Adam West Batman intonation and geekily snickering to himself.

It’s not just that Big Daddy and Hit-Girl kick ass, but they are a much more amusing pair of characters at the heart of it.  But they do kick ass.  And kill a whole lot of people.

The film is in fact quite violent and while the story is about standing up against crime and not letting criminals run roughshod over everyone, they are meting out vigilante violence in copious quantities.  While the film is also a “teen” film, with girlfriend romance and buddies too, that part of the film seemed a bit less interesting.  Really, I would have perhaps more appreciated a film called Hit-Girl and Big Daddy in which Kick-Ass is the side character.

The film is comedic as well as violent, but most of it is not as funny as one might hope.  In all, I did enjoy the film, but I was still hoping for more.  Directed by Matthew Vaughn, whose 2004 film Layer Cake I enjoyed, Kick-Ass moves along solidly enough, and I know that there will be more people out there saying that indeed the film did “kick ass”.  To my mind, it kicked some ass.  Not all of it.

But the big charms of this film are Moretz and Cage.  And interestingly, I noted that Moretz played the Avril Lavigne-like cool girl character in Diary of a Wimpy Kid (2010).  She stood out a bit there, but here she is something unique and strange, hilarious, pubescent fantasy girl, who unlike the others, has the radical skills of a supernatural superhero.  And the ability to actually kick ass.

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