Monday, April 12, 2010

Kick-Ass, movie review

Posted by lea at 9:40 PM

I should not be this giddy about a film so chock full of extreme violence and an 11-year old girl with a potty mouth. I should not, by rights, be so enamoured with this film about a teen geek superhero-wannabe who wears a wetsuit to save the neighbourhood. But I LOVED it. Enough to see it twice in the opening weekend. It, quite simply, kicked ass.

The script is funny, clever and very current. It's full of one-liners and hilarious teen moments that pepper the film and balance the violence and mayhem that escalate as the story goes on. The action, although violent, is never particularly realistic enough to be disturbing. It's stylised in the brand of Hong Kong super-director John Woo (it bugs me the number of reviews that refer to it as 'Tarantino-esque' – Woo is the original), and brings to mind the early movies starring Chow Yun Fat. But the graceful balletic violence is transferred to a comic book setting, which works brilliantly, and delivers most of its lethal blows through an 11 year old girl. This move has seen some major controversy in the media lately. Considering my belief system (Christian, and usually predictably conservative), I should've been joining in the ranks of the outraged, but frankly this movie got me from the premise and delivered everything it promised. It's become one of my favourite movies of the last few years at the very least.

In a short summary (no spoilers), the story is about a teen geek, Dave Lizewski (played by British Aaron Johnson) who wonders aloud why noone's tried being a superhero in real life. Armed with his newly-purchased green wetsuit, a mask, baton and MySpace page for for his alter-ego Kick-Ass, he goes out to save the neighbourhood. 11 year old, purple-wigged Hit-Girl bursts into the scene during a rescue mission gone wrong, saving his life and delivering the devastatingly funny line to his attackers, 'Okay you cunts, let's see what you've got,' and then wastes no time laying into them with a flurry of bloody knife-action. Turns out Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz, 11-year old action prodigy) and her father Big-Daddy (Nicolas Cage in a career-reviving role) are pseudo-superheroes who are going after the bad guys to avenge the death of their wife/mother. The 'bad guys' are Frank D'Amico (the wonderful Mark Strong), the local mob boss with an artillery of goofy gang members, and increasingly also his teenage son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, McLovin' from Superbad and Role Models), who creates his own superhero alter-ego, Red Mist.

Due to the controversial nature of the film, apparently no film studio wanted to touch it unless Hit-Girl metamorphosed into a 28-year old crime-fighting machine, but creators Matthew Vaughn and Mark Millar refused to budge. As a result, it was privately funded (largely by Brad Pitt, no less) so the directors had absolute control over the film.

While the plot is quite simple, not unlike most superhero movies, there are layers in this film that take it beyond simple entertainment to potential cult status. Kick-Ass satirises the superhero genre (the heroes don't have any superpowers, Big Daddy's costume is a rip off of Batman and the hero at the centre of the action is a geek in a wetsuit), while genuflecting before its altar thematically and otherwise (good versus evil, Hit Girl's super-agile abilities and the incredibly choreographed fight scenes), all the while offering a smorgasbord of humour from light (the quips and banter of Dave and his friends) to dark (the comic book violence). Its irreverence is bound to resonate with teenagers while the cleverness of the script and brilliant action sequences will appeal to anyone who likes a good laugh and doesn't mind a bit of violence. Okay, a lot of violence, but slick and brilliantly choreographed.

Most reviews that pan the film seem to focus on the irresponsibility of placing central focus on a violent and foul-mouthed preteen, and while I agree it's not healthy by any means, in this case it does what it's meant to: be shocking and entertaining and awe-inspiring all at once. Once in her costume, Hit Girl's charisma, casual swearing and violence become something of legend, and I, for one, would have been very sorry to miss it, had she been turned into the 28 year-old studio doll most likely with a big pout and sexualised leather costume. I'll take Hit Girl dropping the f-bomb any day.

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