Friday, April 16, 2010

Review: "Kick-Ass"

Shh! Dear D and I had intended to see a show together, which neither of us really wanted to see, but sort of should, for various reasons. But knowing it would have been painful (and those we cared about who were in it would forgive us), we went with "Plan B" and went to see Kick-Ass, instead.

Dave Lisewski (Aaron Johnson) is a typical teenager, trying to figure things out by deliberately remaining anonymous. He hangs with his two nerdy buddies, Marty and Todd (Clark Duke and Evan Peters). They eat lunch together, go to the comic-book store together and even get get mugged together... a lot. Dave wonders why no one has ever tried to be a superhero in real-life* before, and after the umpteenth mugging, Dave orders a wet suit from Amazon and assembles himself a rather amateurish (not to mention garish) green and yellow superhero costume. He practices jumping, rolling and kicking and eventually goes out to stop crime... and promptly ends up in the hospital, near death. But almost like the "Six Million-Dollar Man," Dave is brought back from the brink and somewhat (thanks to what happened), "improved." I don't want to spoil it for you, so that's all the origin story you get from me.

As all this is happening, Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) is training his 11 year-old daughter Mindy (Chloe Moretz) on how to take a shot while wearing body armor, shoot guns and wield knives, blades and ninja stars with deadly accuracy.

18 months later, Dave takes up the costume again, determined to be the guy who gives a damn, Not only is he victorious in his next attempt, but he's recorded on several cell-phones, resulting in a the biggest YouTube viral video, ever. Kick-ass immediately becomes a star with 16,000 MySpace friends. Dave is also crushing on Katie (doe-eyed Lyndsy Fonseca), a girl who thinks he's her sassy gay BFF. When Katie tells Dave that she's afraid to tell a creep named Rasul to leave her alone, Kick-Ass shows up to deliver the message for her; once again finding himself in just a little over his head. But at the last second, a purple-haired child in a mask, cape and plaid pleated skirt takes out the entire bunch of very bad men. Hit-Girl is a very foul-mouthed assassin, with skills that both amaze and terrify Dave. She introduces herself, and her father, Big Daddy, a guy who wears as close to a Batman costume as possible, without infringing on copyright. Unfortunately for Dave, Rasul and his pals worked for dangerous Mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), who issues a hit on the person he thinks is responsible: our hero, Kick-Ass.

The performances here are all-terrific. Everyone gets it, playing their parts truthfully, despite the absurdity of it all. The adorable Johnson makes his American film debut (though a quick glance at his IMDb profile lists a slew of credits in the U.K.) and gives a funny, charming and intelligent performance as Dave/Kick-Ass. Moretz (500 Days of Summer; Diary of a Wimpy Kid) is nothing short of amazing as Mindy/Hit-Girl and it's funny, rather than shocking when she uses words Uncle P only uses when he's alone in the car, all while she is brutally slicing and dicing bad guys without a hint of remorse or fear. Most surprising is Cage, finally playing a superhero (even if it's not the one he wanted to). He's just terrific, channeling Adam West's version of Batman without an iota of irony, making his performance all that much funnier. Strong (Sherlock Holmes) is once again the perfect villain and his interpretation of an immoral, ruthless New York Mob boss is dead-on, though not without its own moments of hilarity. I do hope Strong isn't forever typecast, because I'd love to see him as a heroic lead, someday. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad's McLovin) is hilarious as Red Mist, a 'manufactured ' superhero with ulterior motives and the beautiful Omari Hardwick displays the right amount of intensity as the cop who knows everybody's secrets.

Director Matthew Vaughn (2007's amazing and underrated Stardust) has obviously studied the works of action directors who have come before, and he delivers some of the most exciting (if exceptionally violent) action-sequences since the Wachowski brothers. Paying homage to Peckinpah; Tarentino; Scorcese; McTiernan; Nolan and more, Vaughn doesn't cheat with a million quick-cuts that turn every action sequence into a headache-inducing blur. Instead, he lets the camera linger over the outrageous bodily harm being done and the copious amount of blood being spilled. The ridiculously over-the-top violence here is hardly gratuitous, but rather part of the joke -- it's so outrageous, the only possible reaction is laughter. The script (by Vaughn and his Stardust co-writer Jane Goldman), is both hilarious and insightful, simultaneously spoofing and embracing the superhero genre much more successfully than films like Mystery Men.

D agreed we had made the better choice, especially since he saw his first trailer for the upcoming testosterone-palooza, The Expendables. He actually grabbed my arm in excitement - if there's one boy who's gay for Stallone (and Franco, but that's for later) - it's D. And he will be the first to admit it (though he also told me he's curious about Ellen... go figure). I'll be seeing it with him, of course. But only because it also stars the action star I am totally gay for (don't even...).

Here's the NSFW-language ridden Red Band trailer for Kick-Ass:

Admittedly, Kick-Ass is not a movie for everyone. Some will be put-off by it's offensive language and excessive violence, but they'll be missing the point. Children should most definitely be kept from seeing this film. There are few things that make your Uncle P angrier than seeing children at an age-inappropriate movie. Of course, all that having been said, D and I both had such a good time, Kick-Ass is the first official contender for my Top Ten of '10.

Finally, a movie that lives up to its title. Kick-Ass does indeed, kick ass. ****(Four Stars) Kick-Ass is rated R for Adult Language; Extreme Violence and Sexual Situations.

*As a side note, there are in fact, some real people who dress up in costumes and 'fight crime,' though that's for a post all it's own. Remind me, will you?

More, anon.


Anonymous said...

So I'm watching Watchmen again last night and I remember that you said they had no powers, except for John. I was never sure of this so thanks but I am still a bit puzzled. Was Rorschach's face technology? And everyone's fighting skills - like Kung fu movies?

Prospero said...

I'm guessing Rorshach's mask was technological rather supernatural. And the others - training... years and years of training.