Review – Kick-Ass

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Kick-AssThere’s a few comic book movies I’ve been looking forward to this year, Iron Man 2, the Losers, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and Kick-Ass.  From numerous test screenings and teasers the buzz was consistent that the movie rose to the level of the subversive underground comic book it was based upon.  On Rottentomatoes (a movie website I tend to agree with the community) the movie has an overall overage rating of 75% (71% among critics and 89% among movie goers).  Hell, reading Roger Ebert’s review you’d think this was the comic book version of Pulp Fiction:

This movie regards human beings like video-game targets. Kill one, and you score. They’re dead, you win. When kids in the age range of this movie’s home video audience are shooting one another every day in America, that kind of stops being funny.

But as I walked out of the movie, I could only help feeling deflated and bewildered as to what the hype was about (in full disclosure I was about 5 beers in when I got there, but doubt that mattered).

The plot of the movie is pretty simple, “What if super heroes were real and why hasn’t anyone tried it before?”  The cast mainly consists of teenagers dressed in costumes that for the most part sticks to their comic book counterpart and translates well to the big screen.  The violence isn’t quite as brutal as the comic book series but still on par with the before mentioned Pulp Fiction.  It’s very much the comic book version of that movie, minus the wit and storytelling kung-fu that is a Tarantino movie.  This is the violence of A Clockwork Orange, without the statement.

The movie is from the point of view of Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson).  The everyman role that’s been filled by the likes of Peter Parker in past comic book movies.  At first Dave thinks he can control his fate and turn his world around but events spirals his life out of control and shows that maybe he’s not quite up for the role he’s forged for himself.

The highlight of the movie is Chloe Moretz who plays Hit Girl, the 11 year old scene stealing, action master, who gets the best lines and dishes the most violence.  In the end it’s Hit Girl that saves the day, making this movie contain a subtle “girl power” subtext.

The plot deviates from the comic book series it’s based off of with the last third unrecognizable from what it’s source material.  These changes aren’t for the better and baffling as the creator of the comic Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. seemed to have such a hand in it’s making.

In the end, it’s not the entertainment that will keep audiences buzzing, it’ll be Moretz and the ultraviolence she dishes.  And that’s sad, since the source material is so good.  But something clearly got lost in translation from page to screen.

Direction:  Matthew Vaughn has directed some new classics (Layer Cake, Stardust) so we know the guy can direct.  But there seems to lack the amazing visuals of some of his previous works and there’s some downright questionable choices.  In a scene a character is seen hunting bad guys with a camera angle reminiscent of the atrocious movie Doom.  The action scenes are ok, but it’s clear that’s not Vaughn’s strength.  The action scenes are lackluster and some of the best moments of the movie are the downtime and verbal jousting between Lizewski and his friends.  Again Moretz is the true highlight in dialogue and action and it’s clear Vaughn knows this.  It’s almost as if there was a clear focus on that character while ignoring the rest of the cast.

Acting:  This is a big shrug of the shoulders.  None of the acting is good, it’s quite cheesy in fact, an issue that’s plagued comic book movies in the past (Watchmen being a prime example).  I wish I could highlight some of the bright spots but there’s so few to do.  The standout when it comes to acting is Clark Duke, who has mastered the friend role.

Plot:  Why deviate from the comic series?  The last third of the film tangents off of what worked fine on paper and took out some of the most shocking parts of the plot.  The storyline was dumb downed and focuses on the violence shock factor instead of straight up good story telling.  The change is baffling and uncalled for.

Overall:  The movie is a watered down version of the comic book series it was based off of.  It misses the subversive statement and destroys an excellent plot.  Is it a bad movie?  No.  But I can’t say it’s good either.  If you’re looking for a movie full of violence and the idea of an 11 year old girl whipping ass appeals to you, then by all means see it.  There are worse ways to spend 2 hours.

Grade: C+