Notes On A Film: Kick-Ass

I had to write some thoughts on Kick-Ass the film because, for once, the UK release is a few weeks before the US release. This doesn’t happen very often, especially for a (hoped-for) blockbuster. This warrants special attention.

Kick-Ass the film is entertainingly ludicrous, and ludicrously entertaining. The action is wonderfully over the top, Nicolas Cage does a hilarious Adam West impression when he is in the guise of Big Daddy (it’s spot on; it’s like he’s been practising all his life – whenever he says anything with the voice, everyone was laughing, not because the content was funny but because of the voice), Chloe Moretz is brilliant as Hit Girl, it’s full of fun pop culture references, Matthew Vaughan has done a great job on a small budget, and it makes for an enjoyable romp that you should go see in the cinema.

I don’t think this is a perfect film, however. This is possibly to do with Mark Millar’s huxterism; in the build-up to the release, he was talking about how it was so ‘real’, comparing it with the big blue willy of Watchmen. This film is not real: the idea – why hasn’t somebody tried to be a superhero before? (conveniently ignoring the people in America who have already dressed up in spandex and acted as vigilantes) – is a genuine idea but the rest of the film after the result (i.e. he gets beaten up so badly he’s almost dies) is as unreal as any comic book or film. An eleven-year-old girl who spins around like a dervish slicing off drug dealers’ legs or running around shooting gangsters in the face is not real. It’s really entertaining but it’s not kitchen sink, is it? And don’t get me started on the device that is used at the end of film for the heroic climax that is so far away from the concept of an ordinary teenager putting on a scuba suit and fight crime …

There are other aspects of unreality in the film that make me notice them instead of ignoring them. The New York areas where our hero, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, doing a good American accent), wonders around seems like a film set, devoid of other people; the gangsters seem as if they only exist in a film, not real life, as does the penthouse apartment of the boss (does he own the whole building?); the girl who will become Lizewski’s girlfriend was apparently dating a thirty-year-old drug dealer, who has ended up semi-stalking her (she’s a teenage girl, remember); the fact that the identity of Kick-Ass is something that is on the news, nobody apparently bothers to track his address and identity via his MySpace site before Big Daddy and Hit Girl do; seeing Jason Flemying and Dexter Fletcher appearing as New York gangsters (seemingly because they were in Stardust, Matthew Vaughan’s last film) throws me out of the action; and, for some reason, I can’t believe in a comic book shop that is also a café/diner that allows people to read all the books before buying them and a huge television plays the news in the background …

Still, the film is a lot of fun, with lots of laughs and pop culture references – the opening credits riffs on the Superman credits, a stand-off scene has Ennio Morricone music playing behind it, there is mention of John Woo (to let you know that the action scenes are homages and not plagiarism), seeing Hit Girl killing mofos is just plain hilarious (even though you feel you shouldn’t be laughing so hard), and there are lots of call outs to various comic books (in fact, this film couldn’t exist without other comic books and comic book movies in particular – Kick-Ass relies on these prior films to make its central point). Mark Strong, an actor who is always good, plays a New York Mafia boss well but also in a demented enough fashion that you can believe him when he starts having a punch-up with an eleven-year-old girl. The script is sharp and funny, even though there is a pop culture line that is so Mark Millar that I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t in the comic book, where Kick-Ass thinks he’s going to die and thinking, among other things, that he’ll never know what will happen at the end of Lost (a line that will date this movie after a year, something that Millar always does in his comic books, such as the men that Betty Banner was dating in The Ultimates). But this is just me being overly picky and fussy, and to do with my problems with Millar; Kick-Ass is fun, exciting, entertaining and something different (if not quite the ‘Pulp Fiction of comic book movies’ as Millar suggested).

Rating: DAVE

[See here for my film rating system]

2 Comments

  • Roger 20 February 2011 at 11:46 am

    I liked you review, but I think you may have misunderstood the 'real' comment. The real was more to do with none of them actually having any super-powers, and with the exception of the jet pack (which exists, but can't do what the film suggests) all the action being 'realistic'. I love the film, I think it tells a complex story economically and the sound track is amazing. It is the only film I've watched more than once at the cinema (4 times) and watch fairly regularly still kost sarudays (I'm 45 and in no other ways might I be regarded as 'geeky). The are a couple of points that bug me about the film. Why does Mart say "No, that's still my Mum" in the cafeterier, when his previous comment has been about Tod's mum. Where does hitgirl come from behind Razul (the window is clearly shut). Why does Red Mist shoot hit girl, when he's just there to lead the villans to Big Daddy. How does Hit Girl know where they take Dave and Big Daddy? These aside one of the things I think the film does really well is to set up later scenes through dialogue, action and camera view. I don't know about jason Fleming, but isn't Dexter Fletcher actually American anyway? Yes, De Mico owns the whole building. She doesn't date Razul, she clearly meets him at the needle exchange and she feels sorry for him, but all he does is takes money from her and hits her. In the comic book store, they buy them before reading them (don't comic books in America come in plastic covers) and they have TVs in lots of places in the US showing news. As for the unpopulation, it is true that we don't see swarming streets, but I think that's deliberate and 'real' in parts of NY (look at the neighbourhood Dave lives in, that is not a central area. As for the multiple references, I guess that is a gilding which you'll either like or not – I like. However, no-one ever seems to mention my favourite line "Time to die" which is surely a reference to Blade Runner. Anyway, can't wait for the sequal, and this time I'm going to make sure I see it in a full cinema, despite my dislike of crowds in cinemas, as it provides a very different experience.

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  • David Norman 28 February 2011 at 7:30 pm

    Thanks for your comments. I shall stick to my original opinion on the definition of 'real' in the film 🙂

    I was just being picky over various things because I enjoyed the film, much like you did regarding certain plot holes (and which I can't answer). It doesn't mean we don't like the film.

    Some minor points: Dexter Fletcher was born and bred in the UK, appearing on BBC children's television as a youth. Comic books don't come in plastic covers in America (I used to live there and buy comics there, so I have experience).

    Finally, the timing of your comment slightly freaked me out because I had just watched the film on DVD for the first time since I saw it in the cinema. Spooky.

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