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Blu-ray Review: Kick-Ass

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The Film

Kick-Ass decidedly does not. The superhero action/teen comedy smash-up tries its best to dabble in the worlds of ultra-violence and suggestive snark about equally, but it has a hard time excelling at either. It’s got plenty of examples of both, but aside from a few impressive set pieces, the film feels curiously underwhelming. It doesn’t kick ass so much as gently nudges it.

Director Matthew Vaughn adapts the Mark Millar comic book capably, giving the film a candy-colored look that often contrasts sharply with violence that is fairly non-stylized as far as these types of films go. That incongruity works though, adding some gravity to the proceedings.

What doesn’t work so well is the way the film tries to integrate this universe with that of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a high school kid living in a knockoff Superbad world. Dave’s a comic book fan who’s more of a faceless nobody than a nerd or outcast. He has a crush on fellow student Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) that’s not going to go anywhere, and he hangs out with fellow comic fans Marty (Clark Duke, stealing his scenes as usual) and Todd (Evan Peters).

Dave’s life changes when he decides to order a teal wetsuit from the Internet and become a superhero, actual superpowers be damned. The only reason he doesn’t die almost instantly is the presence of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), a former cop and his 11-year-old daughter who have the weapons and training necessary to be superheroes without powers.

Ultimately, the three will try to take down the city’s crime syndicate, led by Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), whose son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, doing very little with his role) is eager to get in on the superhero racket as well. Bouncing back and forth from a world where Dave is almost stabbed to death to a world where he’s mistaken as gay by his crush results in some jarring tonal shifts that seem to suggest Kick-Ass isn’t a film that really knows what it wants to be.

At the heart of the problem is Johnson, who could only be blander if he dropped the scratchy, squeaky voice that gives Dave about the only shred of distinctiveness he’s got. The film ticks along at a much more entertaining pace when we get moments between Cage and Moretz, who make for a hilariously profane duo. Compared to scenes where Hit-Girl handily takes down all attackers violently and proficiently, scenes where Dave actually wins one in his personal life still make him look like a boring loser.

The film’s climax delivers a fantastic and explosive set piece, but it’s one of the few scenes that really leave an impression. Kick-Ass generated its share of controversy, primarily for Hit-Girl’s shocking behavior and language — I find it works within the context of the film mostly, but I can understand the discomfort it causes some — but this is a much flatter and more unremarkable experience than its reputation would seem to suggest.

The Blu-ray Disc

Kick-Ass is presented in 1080p high definition with an aspect ratio of 2.4:1. Bright comic book colors make for consistently impressive color saturation, with loud yellows, greens, and reds looking vibrant and consistent. The film isn’t always so artificial looking though, and in more subdued scenes, the presentation still looks excellent, with a nice layer of film grain and excellent clarity and sharpness present.

The audio is presented in a 7.1 DTS-HD track that really performs well in the film’s many action sequences, with sound effects coming through loud and punchy against a nicely balanced and quite prominent score. Dialogue filters through the front channel cleanly and clearly.

Special Features

Fans of the film get a nice release from Lionsgate here, with a deep supply of extra material. One can watch the film with director Vaughn accompanying them via audio commentary or BonusView mode, which has Vaughn talking about the film as well as interviews from a number of cast members and making-of footage, presented picture-in-picture with the film. These types of features don’t always come off so well, but this is an often interesting and effective way to go behind the scenes here.

Next up is a four-part series of making-of featurettes that together almost equal the running time of the film, as well as featurettes that focus on the transition from comic book to screen and the art direction. Trailers and posters are also included in a marketing archive.

The three-disc set also includes a DVD of the film sans bonus features as well as a digital copy disc.

The Bottom Line

While the film fails to succeed on a number of levels, the Blu-ray package gets an easy recommendation for its extensive extras and solid technical presentation.

 

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About Dusty Somers

Dusty Somers is a Seattle-based editor and writer. He is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and Seattle Theater Writers.