Very few movies seem to live up to their hype these days, and fewer movies still live up to their name; however, Kick-Ass did both with finesse. Alright not so much finesse really, but more like explosions, relatable characters, wicked amounts of weapons, suitable levels of angst, impressive acting, and awesome fights made Kick-Ass so amazing. Let me save my praises for now though and instead introduce you to the world of Kick-Ass.
Kick-Ass the film, based off the comic of the same name, begins with Dave Lizewski. Dave is the average teen ‘loser’, or at least Hollywood’s typical teen loser. He’s invisible to girls, only appreciated by his two similarly ‘loser’ friends, and aside from some regular motivation via his English teacher’s cleavage really doesn’t seem to be going anywhere in life. That’s not to say Dave doesn’t have dreams though, and after getting picked on one too many times by thugs, and perhaps reading one too many comic books, Dave decides to take on an alternate identity and fight crime as Kick-Ass. While he fails at his first attempt to be ‘super’, and is sent to the emergency room in the process, his faith remains and thanks to some honest-to-goodness cajones, the metal plates he has post-surgery, and a viral cell phone video, Kick-Ass becomes a phenomenon which reverberates throughout the world.
As so often occurs with the rise of good though we see the rise of evil. While Kick-Ass is joined by new compatriots Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, a father and daughter team, the crime boss Frank D’amico begins to move against these masked vigilantes. As the movie progresses, one begins to see the making of a true revenge based superhero tale, bringing old foes together, and inviting new foes to the fray. All in all, Kick-Ass mixes classic superhero motifs with an unlikely set of characters, leading to one particularly fantastic film.
To go into my thoughts now in a little more depth, I want to first mention that a) I’ve never read the comic and b) I had low expectations for this film. While I heard nothing bad about it prior to seeing the film, I had heard so much hype that, to say the least, I was quite worried about the actual quality of the film. As you know now my opinion is quite positive.
The main reasons I immediately grasped onto the movie was the story and the characters. The characters are what strike the viewer first so let me go into them. Immediately the film opens with Kick-Ass narrating his life in an honest and humorous manner. Unlike most narrations, which either come off as too smart, or too snarky, I immediately connected with Kick-Ass, who at this point of the film is still just Dave. His willingness to try this crazy idea of being a super hero, and all the while being so bad at it, made me appreciate that this was a kid who at least was willing to give his dreams a shot. That sounds cheesy I know, but when your lead predecessor for alternate super hero tales is Watchmen you grasp for the optimism you can find.
In addition to Kick-Ass, some of his fellow crusaders are Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, the latter played by Nicolas Cage in one of his best performances in some time. Both Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, probably my favorite characters, highlighted the duality of super hero life best of all, mainly because for them there was only super hero life. That is because Big Daddy raised Hit-Girl to be knowledgeable of all weapons and to have skills equal to that of a ninja. Hit-Girl takes on these tasks as if the requests were ordinary, and the bond between them, while unorthodox, actually shows great love and humanity. While one might assume my love of the characters continues on to the final masked crusader Chris aka Red Mist, D’marco’s son, I felt that his role was almost underplayed for most of the film. There was a lot of room for conflict left unsaid, and I think his character in many ways had so much more to offer. Likewise, after watching Superbad it’s honestly difficult to take the actor Mintz-Plassee, aka McLovin’, seriously. Instead, my final favorite characters of the film would be the Dave’s friends. In particular, Dave’s two male friends help add a lot of humor, especially when the scenes get almost too tense to bear. Likewise the character Katie, Kick-Ass’s love interest, adds not only a pretty face but also some sentimentality, again demonstrated best during the extremely tense scenes. Plus in the film Katie’s gradually learning to love comic books partly thanks to Shojo Beat, which gives hope to anime/manga fan boys everywhere. Ultimately though, from primary to secondary, the characters were all crafted beautifully, and the actors rose to the challenge to make them truly come to life.
Now I summarized the story earlier; however, I’d like to just touch on what made the plot really help make the film for me. In fact, the part of the story I loved most is also what had me worried the most, and that’s the whole development of these ‘ordinary heroes’. Well very early on I realize no matter what Dave tries to tell me none of the characters are ordinary, and they are especially not anti-heroes, in the same vein as Watchmen. Likewise, while there is a dark revenge plot which ties all the characters together, there is a genuine sense of happiness in many parts of the film. I mentioned before that scenes can get pretty heavy in this film and that’s certainly true. One scene in particular sticks out to me as incredibly dark and uber-violent and would likely fit well into The Dark Knight. Early on in the film though we can’t help but laugh when Dave first becomes Kick-Ass, and that humor helps us connect even better to the story. Likewise while the heroes understand the consequences of their actions and roles, there is a continuous sense of hope and a feeling that these characters really are super.
What I also thoroughly appreciated from the film’s story was the many homages to comics, and in particular those references to Batman. From the costuming, with Big Daddy appearing in a knock-off Batman suit, to the bad guys, mob connections much like The Dark Knight, to the cry for revenge, Kick-Ass is filled with Batman references. While this fact might worry those who have never read any Batman comics before, let me say if you’ve watched The Dark Knight, or really anyone of the previous Batman films, then you at least should get an understanding for most of the connections. Having depth to a film is truly one of the marks of a skillfully crafted story, and Kick-Ass has this in spades.
I know I merely hit the highlights of the film, but really I’m ok with that because I want you to watch this film more than I want you to finish this article. If you don’t like language or violence then for you it should definitely be a pass for sure. However, even if you don’t like comics, this film is the best of so many worlds: teen, comics, action, family, and so much more! Therefore I hope after reading this you head to your theatre, or get the film rent or buy, and see what Kick-Ass is all about.
Score: 4.5 out of 5