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Movie Review: Kick-Ass Does Not

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Written by Fido

Okay, that’s the last easy joke I’ll make about the title. But seriously, this movie, while made with good intentions, misses the mark on so many points. I’ll do my best to keep the rant under novel length.

First off, the story about a wannabe super-hero who makes his dream come true through an online-ordered suit and a circumstantial YouTube video is a cute idea in its essence. The problem with Kick-Ass is that it has made the lead character, the unassuming Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an all-too stereotypical teenage nobody seen in countless better forms before. Now that is no big deal, really. I like those kinds of characters; they tend to work. The problem here is that he’s just not funny, charming, or sympathetic – at all.

The sniveling nature of the character grows old about 20 minutes in and really, overall, there’s zero attachment generated for him. I put an equal helping of blame on Johnson, director Matthew Vaughn, and the material itself, all looking to other similar characters for their cue, rather than building something that works for this particular movie. Lizewski’s persona is so hackneyed and so rushed that once he got to the business of being a superhero I found myself wanting him to lose. Not really what you want the audience to feel for your hero.

Another character issue is the absolutely rushed “relationship” Lizewski has with his would-be girlfriend Katie Demeaux (equally blandly played by Lindsay Fonseca) is thrown in to give the girls something to partially swoon about.  It just feels like such a “oops, we forgot a girlfriend” piece of semi-plot that at no point do I feel a bond between either of these people.  Again, I just want something to go terribly wrong between them so I don’t have to deal with watching them in their impossibly stupid goings-on again.

What's odd is the guy the movie is named after and who should have the most impact on the story isn’t the lead. His character is not what drives the story forward and in the end it isn’t what foils the bad guys. Revolving around that point – there’s an inordinate amount of time spent with the bad guys in this movie. Mobsters, that at no time offer any kind of amusement or threat outside of the yawn-inducing, stereotypical gangster whose dialogue seems cut and pasted from 1,000 other (far better done) characters in the same tired vein.

I’m all for villains. It’s great to spend a lot of time with your baddies (see: The Dark Knight for justified copious amounts of bad guy screen time). Hell, usually the bad guys are more interesting than the good guys anyway. But if you’re going to do that, those bad guys better bring something more interesting to the table than the character equivalent of fruitcake to a Christmas party.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse, whose geeky musings have been fun to watch thus far in his career, is misused in the role “Red Mist”, a.k.a., Chris D’Amico. But as it is, I appreciate the movie trying for something different in making him a co-heavy, but it falls flat. Making a comedic actor play a role that calls for no scenes of comedy is yet another bad idea in the cavalcade of bad ideas that is this movie.

So you have a grip of bland mobsters, miscast sidekicks and cohorts and a hero that is really hard to give a crap about. So you ask yourself what keeps the movie from falling apart altogether? Well, the answer lies in Chloe Moretz and Nicolas Cage. Though they have far too brief an amount of time on-screen, they steal the movie in those spare moments.

Every frame spent away from Big Daddy and Hit Girl is a moment wasted. Between Cage’s unappreciated Adam West-speaking gait and Moretz bringing an unparalleled clutch of pain and foul-mouthed awesomeness to her character – they are what the film should’ve been about. Their chemistry is unexpected. You wouldn’t think this functioning dysfunction would work so well, but it does, better than anything else this film has to offer. Even the plot-exposition moments between the two of them are seamless. There’s a bond between the two characters you can feel and it’s them who drive the plot forward, make the bad guys run, and keep the movie from completely disintegrating. The only time the movie (and the audience for that matter) truly lights up is when they’re on screen.

However, despite their quality performances, they aren’t the crux of the film. And that right there is where this over-hyped whirlwind of mediocrity really fails outright. Somehow, the script and director Vaughn do their best to dodge around their best characters in favor of everything worse – which is a lot. My friend said it best as we walked back to the car – “Why don’t you want to spend more time with the murderous little girl who says (see you next Tuesday) in casual conversation?!”

Speaking of the “everything worse” department, this movie has one the emptiest runs of nothingness in it I’ve seen in a long, long time. There is quite literally a 30-minute stretch in this film when there are no laughs (though most of the laughs, or pseudo laughs were in the trailer), no action, no character development, and no nothing in it. The audience was deathly quiet and the urge to sneak into another theatre, look at my hand or count the number of chairs in the theatre was tough to fight. So not only does the movie sputter along at a painfully herky-jerky pace, it leaves you with this cinematic equivalent of a drum solo right in the middle of itself.

Once it does get going again, it kicks in full bore, making you think it’s going to really start moving now (an hour-plus into the thing), but then right as the action rolls in, it screeches to another halt (and another “high above the city” shot that is used a total of three times in the movie. A gag run into the ground is the not-funny-once reference to Spider-Man that the film managed to do four times).

Mainly what you’ll hear about is the violence in the film. It’s violence that is no different than a million others before it; it’s just that now some of it is at the hands of a small girl and scrawny teenagers. That might put some off, but really it’s nothing more than a sideline to the movie’s parody aspirations.

Some of these fight scenes are done well (as in the drug apartment and running the hallway scenes), but there are two that feel nothing but out of place. They manage to take away from the better ones in the film by both betraying character and by feeling completely jammed into place. One, Big Daddy kills some mobsters and burns down a warehouse in a scene that felt like nothing more than the director realizing he didn’t have enough action scenes in it to warrant the movie’s title. The other is this “first-person shooter” video game looking gunfight scene that is just not what we were told the character would do.

I could go on and on, complaining about this major disappointment of a film. Suffice to say that Kick-Ass really isn’t a full-fledged comedy, action film, drama or otherwise. The only thing it manages to accomplish in full is in being one lost garbled mess of a film that winds up feeling like nothing more than a couple cool action scenes hastily pasted together with some seriously lacking runs of all too familiar “zero to hero” caulking.

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Formerly known as The Masked Movie Snobs, the gang has unmasked, reformed as Cinema Sentries, and added to their ranks as they continue to deliver quality movie and entertainment coverage on the Internet.
  • http://tummytuckorlando.com Orlando

    I hated this movie not because it was “so violent”, or taught children bad lessons, or any of that nonsense . . . I hated it because it just didn’t have a point and completely left you blah.

  • http://www.filmcalamity.com/ Jonathan Sullivan

    I didn’t dislike it nearly as much as you did haha, but I agree with many of your points although I think Aaron Johnson actually showcased a little talent and could do some good things.