Sunday, April 25, 2010

Movie Review: Kick-Ass

Well Geek Culture has been featuring a lot of comic book reviews recently, last night we even took a step out of our comfort zone and reviewed something that had absolutely nothing to do with Joss Whedon’s body of work.  Well we’re going to go for another first here, our first movie review.  Don’t worry though the comic reviews will be back soon.  But for now we're going to cover the new movie Kick-Ass.
Now I went into this blind. I had never read the comic book, honestly I didn't even know about it; the only thing I knew was this was a comic book movie. As a whole comic book/super hero movies have gotten a lot better, but we still have our ups and downs.  For every X-2: X-Men United there's an X-3: The Final Stand, for every Batman Begins there is a Batman Forever, for every Superman there is a Superman IV The Quest for Peace and for every Iron Man there appears to be two Hulk movies.  So history has clearly shown that you can't form an opinion of a comic book movie, ultimately what can make or break a comic book movie isn't its body of stories it’s what the director does with it.
I'm glad that Matthew Vaughn was the director. He isn't a 'comic book movie director’ so there aren't any existing opinions of his style in that respect.  However he did also direct Stardust that was along the same vein as Kick-Ass, it was material that was so out there that it could have been over the top and impossible to take seriously because of its outlandish nature. I think that's part of why the movie is as good as it is, aside from the source material that is.  The movie has its comedic moments where it's not meant to be taken seriously because it's intentionally funny instead of it coming off as a two hour movie about a teenager running around in a wet suit that is trying to hard to take itself seriously that it becomes unintentionally funny.
Let's get into the cast for a minute.  The main character Dave Lizewski (Kick-Ass) is played by Aaron Johnson, now I can't judge him too much because I've never actually seen any of his other work - but ultimately I think he did a really good job with what he was given.  Clark Duke does a decent job playing one of Dave's best friends Marty but he wasn't given much here.  I actually think that paid off because to me he fell flat.  On all of his scenes it felt like I was watching his character Dale Kettlewell from Greek, only more sex crazed. Lyndsy Fonseca plays Dave's love interest Katie; I still don't know what to make of her. She’s kind of a throw away character, the movie could have moved along just fine without her at all.  In fact quite a few times the character actually slows the movie down because the pacing around her scenes is very odd.  Especially the scene where Dave reveals that he is Kick-Ass.  While the scene where she attacked him in her bedroom was funny, the pacing throws it off.  One second she's scared, then she realizes its Dave, then she's angry and upset that he lied to her about being gay and then three seconds later she's ready to sleep with him.  It all happened so quickly that any emotional effectiveness that it was going for becomes unbelievable.

 Mark Strong does a good job as the movie's main villain Frank D'Amico. There's not much to judge him on considering he was playing a character who is an unapologetically evil mobster who will kill anyone and do anything to get what he wants. I know a lot of the plot had to be used for the development and origins of Kick-Ass, Big Daddy, Hit-Girl and to a lesser extent Red Mist, but I wish that we would have gotten a little bit more of a back story to Frank.  It's obvious that his wife Angie, played by Yancy Butler, and son both know he is a mobster and accept it but that seems to be the end of it. The fact that Frank is essentially ashamed of his son, and was willing to risk Chris getting himself killed would be so much more powerful if we had more exposure to their personal dynamic other than Chris looking up to his father and eavesdropping.
I really loved Damon Macready/Big Daddy which surprised me a lot considering no one would ever accuse me of being a fan of Nicolas Cage. But what won me over were the flashback scenes that explained why he was waging war against Frank D'Amico.  The scenes between Damon and his daughter Mindy were exactly what I wanted to see between Frank and Chris; we got to see his world and the relationship he had with his daughter without it taking over the entire movie.  Chloe Moretz blew me away as Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl.  I was not expecting anything anywhere near as awesome to come from such a little girl.  Chloe Moretz is going to be the next big thing, if she's pulling off something this good at such a young age imagine when she's old enough to have Joss Whedon or Quentin Tarantino.  She has acting chops of a more talented Dakota Fanning (although Chloe doesn't make me want to point at the screen and scream 'EVIL! EVIL!") and the brutal honesty and ability to pull off Indie cred right up there with Christina Ricci.
 Christopher Mintz-Plasse does an excellent job as Chris D'Amico/Red Mist. Much like Chloe Moretz Christopher Mintz-Plasse was also a casting stroke of genius.  I actually found myself wanting to see more and more of Chris/Red Mist and Mindy/Hit-Girl than I did Dave/Kick-Ass.  I'm sure they will make a Kick-Ass 2 but I'm telling you right now unless they can get both of them back they need to put the movie on hold until their free.  Re-casting them would be a massive mistake.
 The plot are interesting but with the three different plots that are all running it does run the risk of becoming overcrowded and losing some of its power.  If you dissected Kick-Ass it could easily have been three movies right off the bat.  The evil mobster with his son desperately seeking his approval and his disinterested mother could carry its own weight, so could Damon's career being wrecked by an evil mob boss and his quest for revenge after his wrongful imprisonment and his wife's suicide.  In fact these are actually stronger plot lines than the main plot.  The idea of someone who is so fed up with the way the world is that he just wants to change it because he can't understand why anyone else doesn't is strong enough on it's own.  The problem comes in when they try to find a balance between the other two plots.  There simply wasn't enough room for it to be as important as it should have been.  In fact the best part of that story - when Kick-Ass was trying to save the man from the gang attack while everyone watches and he argues with the gang member that in a world where people can stand there and watch three men nearly beat another to death and do nothing he would rather die risking his life to save the man than be one of those in the crowd - should have been focused on more than it was.
The movie is catching a lot of flack for being too violent, which honestly I don't get.  The main problem seems to be surrounding Hit-Girl's age and the acts of violence she commits. I can understand people being uncomfortable about the character's age however they don't seem to understand that just because it's based off of a comic book doesn't automatically mean that it's meant for children.  The movie has already been made and seen by many people; no matter how much complaining people do the movie won't magically cease to exist.  If I had kids would I take them to see it - honestly, yes, because I want my kids to know the difference between reality and fiction and trust that they know enough to understand that just because you see someone else doing it that doesn't automatically make it alright.
 I'm the type of person that I can tell within a few minutes if I'll like the movie or not; but I’ve got to be honest Kick-Ass kept me guessing. One thing I do know for certain is that by the time the movie was over it left me wanting more, for all the right reasons. Once I see a movie it usually takes me a while before I can ever rewatch it.  Most movies I can only watch once, the rest I can but it takes a few years before I can ever rewatch them however when Kick-Ass was over I wanted to turn right back around and watch it again - and that is something that I've never done.

 Rating: A+

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