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Apr 19, 2010

Film Review: Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass is almost Watchmen all over again. Like Watchmen, the hype does not match the film it was advertising. Only in a few instances, most at the beginning, once at the end, does the film. Upon closer examination, Kick-Ass reveals itself to be more of a spoof instead of a post-modern superhero entry and rightly so. If Kick-Ass’ aim was to be serious, vis-à-vis The Dark Knight, it failed. As a real world, superhero genre entry, Kick-Ass is less thought provoking than Defendor and some of the actors and actresses within this film don’t take themselves seriously enough (or their acting falters and the take is left in the film) and the ending to the film slams flat. Some critics have said that the ending to Iron Man was anti-climatic. I have never agreed with these opinions but if they said the same about Kick-Ass, I would have to agree. Kick-Ass’ ending is CGI tomfoolery: A jet pack with twin mini-guns. GTFOOH.

People bleed in Kick-Ass but rarely bruise or welt. Shouldn’t the opposite be true? At the end of the film, Hit-Girl gets punched repeatedly in face by crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) in their preposterous yet potentially highly entertaining showdown (probably better in the comic) yet six minutes later has no facial damage. Weird. Dried blood yes but no bruising. Is this another example of trying to keep your star pretty throughout your film’s run time? Probably. I guess no one wants to see twelve-year-old Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) with a black eye, a busted lip and missing teeth, even though she could handle it and had been trained to.

Very quickly, Kick-Ass soon ascends to the asinine nebula where The Fantastic Four films (I think I just threw up in my mouth), the Punisher films, and Daredevil (not the Director’s Cut, that’s salvageable) reside. Vigilantes doing interviews, hosting MySpace pages (that lead back to their real address), walking around in the daylight in costume, driving around in an easily identifiable, trackable muscle car: Right. This is the spoof, parody aspect of the film I suppose except it lasts for the entirety of the film. And why exactly do Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson) refer to themselves as superheroes? Because of their costumes aka their uniforms? Firemen and Policemen wear uniforms.  So do Crossing Guards.

Kick-Ass is a superhero film that came out fifteen years too late. In the post-modern comic book movie era, people want their comic book adaptations taken seriously, with an extremely heavy amount of reality tossed into the mix. Kick-Ass is so flippant with reality that by the third act the viewer is watching people die with no emotional investment in them. This did not have to be the case as the film’s main character is instantly indefinable, Peter Parker’s affability reconstituted in another.

The best part of Kick-Ass, besides most of its beginning, is the first crime Kick-Ass tries to stop, a car jacking. What happens at the end of this scene was completely unexpected. The viewer’s jaw will drop and they will grow that much erect in their seat in “what’s going to happen next” amazement. Kick-Ass is in real pain after the final blow during the fisticuffs is struck. At first the viewer thinks he has been punched in the stomach and winded. The viewer is mistaken. Then after the inexplicable happens following that reveal, Kick-Ass is a bloody, bone broken mess on the street. If only director Matthew Vaugh was able to maintain that reality, that intensity for the remainder of his film. Defendor managed to, so did Batman Begins. That film would have “Ass kicked,” to quote Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage).

The only other moment when the film approaches that level of realism (almost everybody’s window in the film can be climbed into or out of safely) but does not quite equal that scene’s brief ferocity, is the torture scene of Big Daddy and Kick-Ass by D’Amico’s ski-masked henchmen as they are tied to chairs and the session is broadcast over the Internet, a methodology similar to what Terrorists sometimes perpetrate against captured U.S Soldiers.

This situation should have housed one of the best scenes in the movie: a father on fire, yelling out combat tactics to his apt, soldier-like, twelve-year-old daughter.

The torture scene ends up being one of the film’s greatest reality let-downs. Riddle me this: If you are beaten with fists, hammers, and bats in the body, extremities, and head, whether you can feel pain or not, the physical damage still being present, in what condition would you be in afterward? Would you be able to yell out cogent commands? Remember the thug in The Book of Eli when his hand gets cut off and he is in shock, babbling one thing but meaning another. Isn’t that resultant condition more realistic, more analogous to the mental state Big Daddy and Kick-Ass should have been in, speech patterns or otherwise? Would you have welts and bruises (yet again) all over from the blows delivered? Like I said, Kick-Ass exists in the black hole of reality, destroying and atomizing all the good will fans of the comic book series and comic book-based films had, past tense, towards it. At one point, the goons pour gasoline over Big Daddy and Kick-Ass yet when lit, only one of the characters goes up in CGI flames. Why? Gasoline was sprayed over both, if I remember correctly, and on the floor underneath them. Shouldn’t they have both gone up? If that happened and then only Kick-Ass survived, but with burns all over his legs and torso, if might have been a superhero film second, as Darkman’s damage would still triumph it.

Here how that section of the film could have transpired but didn’t:

Daddy is dead and Kick-Ass is burned, the bottom portion of his scuba suit burned, blackened, curling, and scorched, much like the skin of our pubescent hero’s legs. Hit-Girl drags him to safety outside the building but not before she makes him help her with her father’s body into the backseat of Red Mist’s car. The smell of burnt flesh permeates in the car. Hit-Girl offers to take Kick-Ass to the hospital but he opts to go home instead. He climbs in through the window. His dad smells burnt meat and cloth through the door. When asked, KA says he burned something in the stove. His dad doesn’t remember him being downstairs or cooking anything but he leaves and goes back to his room. Even with his opaque nerve endings, KA’s hands shake in pain as he takes off the remnants of his costume, wincing in pain (think the similar scene in Daredevil: The Director’s Cut). As he walks to the bathroom, with the camera low on the ground, the audience sees the charred, burn damage to his legs as he gets into the bathtub. The warm water somewhat soothes the ache of his first and second-degree burns. Loose, detached skin floats in the water. KA looks at it as he soaks. After he gets out and dries off, carefully patting the burned areas, he raps them in badges and calls his girl Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca). She rushes over, insanely relieved he is still alive, and sees the bandaged damage. She gives him a deep, soulful kiss. Not one of affection but one of pride. He’s been through hell and all to defend the helpless and strangers. She carefully helps him into bed and they sleep side by side, Katie holding his hand until morning. She leaves early to get back home before her parents wake up but promises to bring him some painkillers from the clinic. KA looks up burn victims and treatments on his laptop. With the hospital there would questions and possible skin grafts or he could not go, have no treatment, endure pain, and deformity. KA opts for the latter. Too many questions. Everyone saw KA being burned on the Internet. They may be on the look out for a teen with his damage. Hit-Girl pays him a visit weeks later after buring her father with her final assault plans against D’Amico. Its what her dad wanted.

I would re-write the fly-pack ending to Kick-Ass but this is not the place for it. It’s barely the place for the previous paragraph. The fly-pack ending killed any reality legitimacy the film had left. As a comedy, perhaps the last viable sanctuary for this film, it is intermittently funny but the director couldn’t have wanted the audience to see his film as such. A comic adaptation like Wanted was able to walk the thin line between jokes and action yet this film, unbalanced and un-centered, was not able to.

Matthew Vaugh’s Kick-Ass is a comic-adaptation, like Watchmen, that could have been fantastic with more realistic elements. What is irritating is that both comics strove to be realistic within their pages yet when translated into motion pictures were stripped of this intention. Even more egregious was that these stories had classic comic elements inserted into them: in Watchmen, super-strength and agility were added, in Kick-Ass (caveat, I haven’t read the comics) no police presence on the streets and vigilantism is accepted (television interviews) if not condoned openly. This is yet another example of the parody, spoof nature of the film I assume. The directors thought this is what the audience wanted: a world without police and FBI, security cameras/internet surveillance, no jail time for vigilantism, preposterous costumes (why rubber BTW?), and beneficial, abnormal abilities, super in some cases. For some films it is, but not for the two aforementioned films, not for Kick-Ass. The viewer will definitely be looking for more when they sit down to watch this film and will have to keep looking.

Rating: 6.5/10

  • http://movieporch.com/ MoviePorch

    I do not expect a lot from this film other than the comedy. I can assume that there are a couple of funny parts and that is all I want from it.

  • http://film-book.com/ Film-Book

    If that's what you want you will not be disappointed. I would rather watch Old School again though.

  • http://moviereviewfaqs.blogspot.com/2010/04/kick-ass.html Monique Elisabeth

    I really believe they were trying to make a spoof of a comic book movie, and not a literal comic book movie. So I'm not sure it's fair to compare it to serious comic book movies, as it's not trying to compete in the same genre. You have some good points about the jetpack scene, which was silly, but keeping in the spoof idea, if you just go along with the fact that this film wants to be a comedy first, it's actually pretty funny because it's so damn silly.

  • http://film-book.com/ Film-Book

    Spoofing while adding in real moments doesn't work or at least not in this film. You may be right about it not being fair to compare it to serious comic book films but it was advertised as such. If that was meant to be a clever con, there was no payoff. You summed the film up perfectly: damn silly.

  • http://spicymoviedogs.com/ Greg Dragon

    Kick-Ass has turned out to be one of those movies that you either tout heavily for or walk out on. I spoke to a fan of the actual comic and he loved it saying it was spot on aside from the Big Daddy dynamic and the.. SIGH jet pack. Okay in defense of the jet pack, it was a bit much but compared to the comics I see it easier for an innocent teen, who has been scarred out of his mind (were this real life Kick-Ass would need deep, deep Doctor Melfy calibur therapy) after seeing a man burned alive and witnessing the methodical, and cold serial killigns of a sociopathic 10 yr old. – to light up 3 guys from afar on a jet pack, than to do it up close like he does in the comics.

    That being said I couldn't judge this movie based on real life, aside from the oversights on bruising etc. that you allude to, you have the cop who allows his friend to freely raise a 10 yr old (whom he loved like his own daughter) to be a sociopathic ninja pixie! Not gonna happen in a million years. So ya I look at Kick-Ass as some bizarro world experience that houses a scrubby nerd who lies about being gay and is rewarded for doing so with naughty bedroom and alleyway sex, a pixie girl who can take out adults like mere roaches and her father who was meant to be portrayed as a grown version of kick-ass, being some sort of driven ex-con with an art talent… It worked for me, I got drunk off of the fact that a kid was dropping more cuss words in an hour than I have for over a year and a Gangster who I didn't know whether to respect or hate… boss Frank was AWESOME! Red Mist was the only downer for me, I saw Kick-Ass twice and loved it.

  • http://film-book.com/ Film-Book

    When I read the comic I will be looking for those differences. They have to be an improvement over this…film.
    You defend the jet pack. I left this out of my review but: How is that jet pack not burning him? How does it turn in the air? How did he learn how to use it within twenty minutes and not kill himself? No test flight or training. Hmmmm.

    Ninja pixie is possible if the cop didn't know of the training until it was too late.

    Red Mist was a waste of time in the film. His character needed some modification.

  • http://jadedviewer.com the jaded viewer

    A “real life comic book movie” is an oxymoron. There are no real superheroes in real life obviously so its hard…and even Dark Knight is grounded in supposed “reality” but only through comic book eyes.

    Kick-Ass is extremely fun. A little girl uttering vulgarities, slaughtering mafiosos is fun. Big Daddy blasting mafiosos is fun. Kick Ass getting his ass kick is fun.

    I liked it…but I suppose people want more from their films these days

  • http://film-book.com/ Film-Book

    When I said: “s a real world, superhero genre entry” I meant films that take themselves seriously. I went into the film thinking that was the case. Half the way through, I realized Kick-Ass was more of a spoof. Your oxymoron therefore is inaccurate. Perhaps I should have been more clear.
    I'm glad you had fun with the film.

  • http://www.7milesdown.com trench

    Need to get our review done for this one.

  • http://film-book.com/ Film-Book

    Get're Done.

  • johnny

    well i fucking loved it!excellent soundtrack

  • http://film-book.com/ Film-Book

    I liked the soundtrack too. The movie was average, nothing more. Glad you got your money's worth.

  • Christoph Genonese

    “At one point, the goons pour gasoline over Big Daddy and Kick-Ass yet when lit, only one of the characters goes up in CGI flames. Why? Gasoline was sprayed over both, if I remember correctly, and on the floor underneath them.”

    Their pools of kerosene probably never touched – if the pools joined together than BOTH would have been barbecued

    Just after Big Daddy was torched, they were trying to get the lighter to work to torch Kickass. But then Hit Girl began to directly assault the torturers, so they had to fire back and didn’t get the chance to roast kickass.

  • Bmcdmail2003

    pretty horrible review and your re-imagining of the rescue scene was laughable. Thank god you’re not a script writer

  • http://film-book.com/ Film-Book

    What’s horrible about the review? What’s laughable about the re-imagining of the rescue scene? Elaborate please.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O3KXX2FXNSSP2A3PJZVLWCGNIU Vintom Lebowski

    I feel that the film sometimes takes itself serious and sometimes doesn’t, depending on what it expects the viewer to feel. It’s like a light switch

    The torture scene, for instance, was not entirely played for laughs.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O3KXX2FXNSSP2A3PJZVLWCGNIU Vintom Lebowski

    “If you are beaten with fists, hammers, and bats in the body, extremities, and head, whether you can feel pain or not, the physical damage still being present, in what condition would you be in afterward?”

    Careful – Remember that Dave has the metal plates in his head. In the comic book version too, Dave isn’t affected as much by the beatups as he should be.

    The guys beating him up don’t seem to care that he’s not as injured as he should be – they are going to set him on fire anyway

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_O3KXX2FXNSSP2A3PJZVLWCGNIU Vintom Lebowski

    “The fly-pack ending killed any reality legitimacy the film had left.”

    I don’t think it did. The flypack ending was a nice magic trick. Plus, it is possible to buy a jetpack, although it’s not as easy to operate as the film makes it out to be. Then again, a sword can’t cut through a leg that easily. (referring to Hit Girl’s apartment scene)