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Kick-Ass (2010)

19 April 2010 by Keeferman No Comment
KICK-ASS

2010, dir. Matthew Vaughn
117 min., Rated R.
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, McLovin

Review by Keeferman

The movie didn’t come out ’til the third Friday of April, but I was invited to attend a special Saturday pre-premiere in The City Too Busy To Hate. And security was tight. They searched purses on entry and they scanned the crowd with nightvision goggles all during the movie. It was a little weird. And no previews. I hate that.

Speaking of haters… back in the day, I groaned the first time I heard Nick Cage was angling to be in a new Superman movie. You probably did too. (Don’t even get me started about Ghost Rider.) That guy has definitely lost whatever edge he once had, right? Right. Okay, so, no way am I going to go watch Nick Cage in a superhero movie. That said… he does a really good job with the character. I repeat: Nick Cage did a good job.

But it’s not his movie. The ostensible star of the show is some high school kid who reads comic books. He’s also naively disappointed in how his fellow New Yorkers react to crime & criminals in their midst. Obviously he decides to do something about it. The bad news is he names himself “Kick-Ass”. The good news is that the movie bears almost no resemblance to Tobey Maguire’s Spiderman and instead bears greater resemblance to John Woo’s “heroic bloodshed” movies.

If you can’t already tell from all the extra preview minutes of the many trailers (And if you haven’t seen ’em, don’t SPOILER it for yourself), this movie really belongs to Hit-Girl. Whereas Nick Cage comes off a little cheesy (I admit: appropriately so), and the titular hero spends as much time getting kicked as he does any kicking himself, the supposedly-junior superhero is the one who ends up getting all your attention. She’s a decent actor and she pulls off the action scenes and, best of all, she’s not playing the precociousness card. She’s deliberately OVERplaying it — and it works. Anyway, mission accomplished: distraction averted.

I don’t appreciate it when a movie forces me to work hard at suspending my disbelief. Just let me enjoy what’s on screen — that’s all I ask. Fortunately, nobody breaks the primary level of disbelief by shooting laser beams from their eyes or flying like a bird. The bigger test for me in these movies is: how real-world realistic is it really? The answer is: pretty realistic. Everything in this movie was entirely possible. There’s stuff that pushes the envelope (such as a gun kata mid-air clip change), but there’re no miraculous epiphany or hyper-coincidence to make you roll your eyes. Stuff happens as it should. The people in the movie react pretty much the way people in the world would react. It was cool. Actually, the most implausible part involved a willing acceptance that the nerdiest geeks could score with hot chicks. Ironic, since I’m pretty nerdy myself and my girl’s pretty hot. Whatever. Every dog has his day though, right? Other than that… cool.

Anyway, vigilantism is real. And there are, indeed, “real life superheroes” out there. People who suit up and go out on patrol. Most of them exercise caution and maintain a certain detachment. You know though that eVentually someone’s going to get hurt when they overreach. That’s seen here too. Kids go to the hospital and kids get hurt. It wasn’t just the dumbass heroes who got jacked up, it was the kickass ones too. There were consequences to actions. Thus, the movie seems to be pretty well insulated from the criticism of concerned parents. Because, no doubt, a few parents/organizations are going to have an OMG list of complaints when they hear about what’s actually in the movie.

What’s actually in the movie? Sickening violence — just the way I like it. There’s gun shot trauma, deliberate torture, dismemberment, stabbing, throat-slitting, whole-body crushing, microwaving, immolation, explosion, and all the other gruesome details they could fit into 117 minutes. My partner Joanderwoman actually covered her eyes three or four times (and loved the movie). The only snuff that doesn’t happen on screen is drowning. I’m guessing that the depiction of drowning was ruled out because there’s not enough fire or spurting blood with watersports. Anyway… sickening violence. And most of the main characters aren’t even adults.

It doesn’t, however, actually glorify violence. It puts it in it’s proper context. Hardened criminals require violent tactics. You know this. Nobody emerges unscathed after wading into a street brawl. You know this. Everybody, even the good guys and the tough guys, gets hurt. They make it quite clear in the movie that fighting crime is no casual undertaking. There is always a price to be paid. There will be blood.

There were a few quasi-public service announcements too — many of them new & updated for the Information Age. DON’T STAND IDLY BY while crimes are committed in your community. If you’re not going to get directly involved yourself, at least call the police BEFORE you upload that eyewitness video for fun and profit. KNOW that nothing on the Internet is as anonymous as it seems. TRUST is a lot more complicated than just believing something.

In addition to indirectly acknowledging their social responsibility as part of Big Media, the filmmakers appropriately addressed most of the established superhero cliches in cinema. They either dealt with them or dismissed them outright. By the time you get to the end of the movie, they’ve covered everything thoroughly-enough that there’s no lingering doubt or weird aftertaste. This is more than can be said about most of the highest-grossing superhero movies (many of which I enjoyed nevertheless).

I did find it alittle surprising though that, while many times During the movie I wanted to cheer with the rest of the audience, I didn’t walk out of it at the end with that blown-away feeling. And I’m guessing most other reviewers don’t either. They might chalk it up to some inadequacy, but the more I thought about it, the more I was fine with it. They avoided the “uplifting” storybook ending, they avoided exploiting the audience, and they avoided all the other cliche pitfalls I usually dread. If the end result is that I get more of a subtle appreciation for a movie than a thrilling rush, fine. Just don’t let that fool you into thinking you can wait for this one to come out on DVD/whatever. DON’T. Go out and see this movie on the big screen.

Not only was I itching for a sequel, prequel, or some kind of spin-off, it also made me reconsider the genre. The best superhero movies have decent fight scenes. This one brings back the guns and the bullets. There was all KINDS of gun-fu in this movie. In fact, I’m going back into the archives to check out my boy Chow Yun Phat in some of the oldies like Hard Boiled or maybe A Better Tomorrow. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, then you should definitely check ’em out too.

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