' ' Cinema Romantico: Kick Ass

Monday, April 11, 2011

Kick Ass

Remember near the start of Christopher Nolan's "The Dark Knight" when there are those Batman imposters who are pitifully trying to nab bad guys and then the real Batman shows up and takes out the imposters while he also takes out the bad guys and then he ties up the imposters with the bad guys and one of the imposters hollers "What gives you the right?!" and Batman intones "Because I'm not wearing hockey masks"? All right, imagine a movie made about the guy who hollers "What gives you the right?!" There is Matthew Vaughn's hyper, glucosed up "Kick Ass." Kind of.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is our typical geeky protagonist mired in loserdom, pining for the out-of-his-league beauty, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsey Fonseca), with two best friends who spend all their time, it seems, discussing comic books. Dave has a question: Why doesn't anyone in the real world dress up and masquerade like a superhero? Dave decides to provide the answer. He purchases an admittedly atrocious costume, chirstens himself "Kick Ass" and prowls the mean streets looking to fight crime which he does, mostly poorly, though he winds up through the grace of the comic book gods winds up one of those so-called youtube sensations after nobly, idotically, coming to the defense of a hapless citizen which leads him to gettin' a bit more cocky and coming to the aid of sublime Katie after she speaks of being harrassed by a no-good drug dealer named Rasul which leads to Kick Ass, in over his head, getting bailed out by a real crime fighting duo of Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

Big Daddy is the alter ego of Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage), an ex cop who went to jail for a crime......wait for it......he did not commit which was caused by the nefarious scheme of noted crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong, blandly bland - what I would have given for a little Henri Ducard) which led to the suicide of Damon's wife and so now Father has teamed up with Daughter, Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) and/or Hit Girl, to seek vengeance on D'Amico. The crime lord, though, ain't goin' out like that and fights back with all he's got which includes, but is not limited to, employing his spoiled son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a more irresponsible Harry Osborn, as a superhero named Red Mist who exists to get to Kick Ass, Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

As our protagonist, Dave Lizewski isn't so much an anti-hero as a non-hero. The guy's got heart, sure, but to paraphrase Frankie Dunn, show me a superhero who's all heart and I'll show you a superstar waiting for a beating. Which is why Kick Ass more often than not gets his ass kicked which is what actually makes it refreshing to see a hero who's so, well, unheroic, at least in the traditional sense. And what it also does is work to allow his low-flying arc to unfold over the course of the entire film, so that when a moment involving a new-fangled jetpack arrives he and we actually feel a sense of hard-earned accomplishment.

And yet the movie, really, is as much about Hit Girl and Big Daddy as Kick Ass and, folks, the much mocked Nicolas Cage gives a surprising, skillful performance that deserves praise. Gentle and loving as daddy, though also selfish, tough and vengeful as Big Daddy, he and Moretz create a real relationship that is simultaneously heightened to proper larger-than-life proportions. Oh, you could argue there a few hints here of John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo, what when you get the glimpse of their secret lair that is wall-to-wall guns, but, really, when you get down to it, there is so much mutual respect between these two that it winds up coming across more like Cliff & Rudi Huxtable going heroically vigilante.

And so we come to Chloe Grace Moretz, whose character generated much controversy last spring at the time of the film's release, drafted as an 11 year old to spew bad language - really, really bad - and off bad dudes at the rate of John Matrix who, if you didn't know, was Schwarzenegger's character in "Commando", a 1985 hyper, glucosed up, violent film that co-starred a, ahem, 12 year old Alyssa Milano as Matrix's daughter. This film pre-dated "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" by 6 years, a film in which 13 year old Edward Furlong stood directly beside Schwarzenegger when he blasted an innocent guy in the knees with a shotgun and then said, humorously, to Furlong: "He'll live." Also, anyone ever read "Lord of the Flies?" Seriously, I should have thought a bunch of American film critics would have put on a better show. But I'm getting worked up. "Kick Ass" is rated R. It should be rated R. Kids below the age of 13 should not see this movie. That is the job of the parents. This is a film for adults that just happens to star kids. Should Moretz have had to say certain graphic words? Maybe not. Did there need to be quite so much gratitutous violence? You might have a point. Does this, in the grand scheme, have anything to do with Moretz's future as a human being? No. Natalie Portman starred in "The Professional", didn't she? She turned out all right, didn't she? If Moretz parents have done their job, she'll be just fine. And let that be the end of it.

I'm going to say what I'm going to say partially just to rile people up for a little fun, partially because I'm hyperbolic by nature, and partially because, heck, I genuinely mean it. "Kick Ass" is better than "The Dark Knight."


Castor said...

Glad you liked it! It's a refreshing change of pace from the usual self-important comic book movies that Kick Ass revels in its own outlandishness.

I do think the movie would have been much more effective if Hit Girl just came out of nowhere during that sequence where she kills all those thugs in front of Kick Ass instead of having all of those scenes with her and Big Daddy before that.

Nick Prigge said...

Interesting thought. I do like those sorts of entrances where you don't have a complete grasp of the character right away and then they could have colored in her backstory afterwards.

Rory Larry said...

I'm not going to lie, I would readily and willingly pay to see Cliff and Rudi Huxtable go vigilante. Enter painful play on Cosby jello commercial here.

Nick Prigge said...

We could pitch it to Bill, though I'm not sure he'd go for it. As a disguise he could simply switch out a Cosby sweater for a non-Cosby sweater. No one would ever know!

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of crazy, bloody violence to keep anybody entertained and their is enough comedy to have you chuckle, even though it starts to get too predictable by the end. Good Review!