Kick-Ass is a movie I have been looking forward to for some time. From the moment I first saw that trailer with the guy with the red wings strapped to his back who plummets to his death amidst a round of applause I knew I had to see it. I have not read any of the comics so I really did not know quite what to expect. I figured there would be plenty of cursing and plenty of violence. I knew there would be comedy and blood. What I did not know was the amount of depth, or lack thereof, the movie would have.
The movie is an interesting mash of amoral violent vigilantism and deconstruction of the superhero genre. This mash-up allows for a couple of different ways to enjoy the movie, each valid, and each worth exploring. I am not sure which one I prefer. I do know that the different takes will make for interesting multiple viewings. Each time you watch you can change your experience!
The one bad thing I can say is that the movie did not blow me away like I wanted it to. I accept this as my fault for going in with certain expectations. I generally try to keep them in check, but I am not a machine, I am a movie fan and it is difficult to keep that analytical mind sharp and focused. Of course, I would not have it any other way, I am nothing if not a mass of experiences, expectations, and biases. Now, this is all not to say the movie is bad by any stretch. Kick-Ass is a blast of adrenaline and a lot of fun. This movie makes dangerous activity entertaining. It feels good and makes me glad no one has really tried it in real life (although I suspect it would not last long before authorities stepped in; This move exists in a fantasy world after all).
Kick-Ass is comprised of two stories that weave together part-way through. We begin with Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a bland, nearly anonymous high school student. He is a comic book fan and wonders why nobody has tried to be a superhero, not even a regular hero. It is a valid point, with all of the people who love comic books and love superheroes: why don't we read about people trying to do it for real? There has to be at least one person unbalanced enough to try.
Dave decides to give it a shot. He buys a makeshift costume and heads out onto the streets. It does not go too well, but Dave keeps trying and ends up an internet sensation, calling himself "Kick-Ass." Dave's attempts to be a superhero comprise the first part of our story. The second part involves the father/daughter duo of Damon (Nicolas Cage) and Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz), also known as Big Daddy and Hit Girl.
Big Daddy and Hit Girl have an interesting back story. I won't give it away here, but it puts them in direct opposition with local mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). It is this story that sets up the dramatic thrust and payoff, following up the pure "what if?" setup that plays out with Dave/Kick-Ass.
The storytelling is pretty straightforward. Good guys fight the bad guys. It strays in how it portrays the characters. It seems like no one is averse to spilling blood in as brutal a fashion as is possible with the available tools. Director Matthew Vaughn does not shy away from putting you front and center with the violence.
It is amazing how easy you will find it to cheer on an 11-year-old killing machine dispatching bad guys without the slightest bit of remorse. Has she been brainwashed by daddy or does she legitimately prefer butterfly knives to Barbie dolls? In the same moment you find yourself rooting for her violent killing sprees, you will wonder about the morality involved and how her childhood has essentially been stolen from her by her father. If you look at it seriously, it is a slippery slope; where does it stop? It is not just Hit Girl, it is pretty much any of them.
The characters are vigilantes killing and maiming in the name of their own brand of justice. This is not law, this is anarchy. It is fascinating watching that which we enjoy in fantasy (in the form of comics and comic-based films) turned into a different fantasy in what is ostensibly the real world. What are the ramifications of both what the characters' actions and what it means for us to enjoy it, not to mention what happens physically to the heroes?
Pick your side and strap in for the ride. While the film has dark themes and thoughts of vigilante justice, the movie is bright, colorful and as energetic and fun as a movie about putting on costumes and doling out bloody violence can be.
Bottomline. Not quite what I expected but I suspect it will grow in estimation with multiple viewings. Different angles to read it from do nothing but help it. Otherwise it is something quite different for the burgeoning hero genre, bordering action, satire, comedy, farce, and probably a few other labels.