Friday, February 04, 2011

Kick-Ass


Originally Written and Posted at Epinions.com on 6/8/10 w/ Additional Edits.


Since the emergence of comic-book based superheroes with films like Superman in 1978, Batman in 1989, and Spider-Man in 2002.  The comic book hero film genre definitely became popular with movie-goers but in recent years.  It's become parodied and also underwhelming.  2009's highly-anticipated film adaptation of the brilliant graphic novel Watchmen was a commercial disappointment while other comic-book driven films seem to have lost its edge in recent years.  In 2010, British director Matthew Vaughn decided to delve into the world of comic-book based vigilantes from a comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. called Kick-Ass.

Directed by Matthew Vaughn with an adapted script by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, Kick-Ass tells the story of a high school teenager who decides to become a masked superhero following a mugging he suffered.  When he gets attention from the internet, a 12-year old girl and her former policeman father decide to become masked vigilantes of their own.  When a fourth masked vigilante joins, they all team up to go fight a drug lord.  A mixture of superhero mythology mixed in with real-life situations, the film is an entertaining yet provocative take on the world of superheroes.  Starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lyndsey Fonesca, plus Vaughn associate Mark Strong, and Nicolas Cage.  Kick-Ass is a film that delivers in its namesake and more.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a regular high school kid who is invisible to nearly everyone including his crush in Katie Deauxma (Lyndsey Fonesca).  Though he has two comic-book loving friends in Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters), Dave wonders about the idea of how people become superheroes.  When he and Todd were mugged while an innocent bystander watches and does nothing.  Dave decides to become a superhero by buying a scuba suit and become his own superhero called Kick-Ass.  Unfortunately, his first attempt by going after the muggers he's been mugged by doesn't go well as planned where he also got hit by a car.

Though he does finally get Katie's attention over the injury, he is amazed only to learn that she think he's gay because of what he did while being in an ambulance.  After another attempt to become a hero, Dave manages to succeed where he saves someone from a beating where Kick-Ass becomes an Internet sensation.  Kick-Ass gets the attention of not just mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) and his teenage son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse).  A former cop named Damon McCready (Nicolas Cage) and his 12-year old daughter Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz) also saw the report about Kick-Ass as they decided to go in the vigilante business.  Even when Katie have told Dave about a drug dealer who had been harassing her.  Dave as Kick-Ass tries to deal with the drug dealer where he would meet Mindy's new alter-ego known as Hit-Girl.

After being contacted by Hit-Girl and Damon as Big Daddy about working with them, Dave tries to deal with the fact that he's got two vigilantes to deal with who are better than him at the job.  Meanwhile, Frank becomes upset over the deaths of his thugs along with some lost money.  He suspects Kick-Ass is behind this as Chris pleas to help him by becoming his own masked superhero named Red Mist.  After contacting Kick-Ass, Red Mist decides to team-up in order to go fight some crime.  Yet, when a lumber factory that is really one of Frank's business in disguise is burned down.  Chris reveals to his dad what is really going on as they realize the key to the man who really destroyed his place is finding Kick-Ass.

Dave however, decides to quit for a while until he gets contacted by Red Mist where he reluctantly plays the Kick-Ass role again.  What happens becomes a trap for all of the vigilantes as Damon's motives against Frank are revealed.  Then, they get some surprising help to fight Frank and the mob.

The film is a mixture of a lot of ideas relating to world of vigilantes and the mythology of superheroes.  Yet, it's really about a young guy trying to find his place in the world by becoming a superhero despite the fact that he doesn't have great fighting skills nor any kind of superpowers.  Just a suit, a mask, two batons, and the determination to do good.  Yet, it becomes overwhelming when he's dealing with two very skilled and inventive vigilantes and another one who is getting attention for taking down a mob figure.

It's not just Dave who is having problems in just being Kick-Ass while trying to balance it with being himself.  His fellow vigilantes also have issues.  Director Matthew Vaughn and co-screenwriter Jane Goldman definitely delve into the psychology of the world of vigilantes and their motive to fight crime.  Particularly Damon McCready aka Big Daddy whose motives to take down Frank D'Amico is more to do with what happened to him when was he sent to prison that would lead to the death of his wife during the birth of their daughter Mindy.  Though she was raised by Damon's former partner Marcus (Omari Hardwick) until age 5 when Damon was released.  She would be raised into a killing machine though Damon would hope for her to have a normal childhood.

Then there's Chris D'Amico, the fourth vigilante who is really just a kid just wanting to seek the attention of his mob boss father.  Yet, he also wants to live up to being the heir to his dad's empire knowing he's a mob boss.  Though Frank D'Amico tries to hide it, he also has a hard time trying to be a dad until Chris gives him the idea to go and find Kick-Ass.   The screenplay is truly complex and layered as it delves not just into the characters but the places they're surrounded by.  Notably the world of comic books that both Dave and Chris are interested in.  Even as there is a sense of melancholia about the way the real world works in relation to what the superheroes go through once their job is done.

Matthew Vaughn's direction is truly energetic in its mixture of action and comedy while giving audiences a break for some dramatic scenes as well as dabbles of humor.  Vaughn also made sure the film doesn't play up to the clich├ęs of recent comic-book based superhero films.  Even as he goes to extremes to create something that is edgy, engaging, and entertaining.  At the same time, that edginess can also bring some discomfort to some viewers.  Particularly the idea of a 12-year old girl killing people in such a gruesome manner as well as saying some profane language.  Vaughn has made it clear that this is not a typical comic-book superhero film.  Even as it includes sexual situations and loads of graphic violence.

Vaughn's direction for many of the action sequences are stylized with slow-motion cuts and sometimes, fast-paced moments of violence.  Yet, Vaughn definitely understands what is needed for an action film.  Even when he mixes it with humor.  The overall work is brilliant as Vaughn creates what is definitely his best film yet as a director so far.

Cinematographer Ben Davis brings a colorful yet pristine look that isn‘t too polished in trying to make the film look like a comic book of sorts.  Editors Pierto Scalia, Eddie Hamilton, & Jon Harris do excellent work in the editing to capture the intensity of the action while slowing things down for the humor and dramatic moments of the film.  Production designer Russell De Rozario, along with set decorator Tina Jones and supervising art director John King do incredible work with the look of the film from the building and offices of Frank D'Amico to the comic book store that Dave hangs out at.  

Costume designer Sammy Sheldon does a nice job with the costumes as Dave‘s Kick-Ass suit looks quite ordinary while the suits of Big Daddy and Hit Girl have more personality to match their own personas.  Sound editor Danny Sheehan does a great job with the sound work to capture atmosphere of the film's action sequences including recreating the sounds of weapons for the film's climatic battle scene.

The film's music features score work by Marius de Vries, Underworld's John Murphy, Henry Jackman, & Ilan Eshkeri is a wonderful mixture of electronic music, rock, and punk.  Notably the soundtrack features some cuts by the Prodigy, Primal Scream, Joan Jett, Sparks, Gnarls Barkley, the New York Dolls, Elvis Presley, and Ennio Morricone with his theme from For A Few Dollars More.  The soundtrack is exciting yet diverse while it also features some of John Murphy's work from Danny Boyle's 2007 film Sunshine.

The casting by Sarah Finn and Lucinda Syson is phenomenal and inspiring as it features several standout roles including cameos from late night talk show Craig Ferguson as himself, Elizabeth McGovern as Dave's mother, Yancy Butler as Chris' mother, and from Matthew Vaughn's stock of regular actors.  Dexter Fletcher and Jason Flemyng as a couple of D'Amico's goons.  Other notable small roles include Deborah Twiss as Dave's English schoolteacher who bares her cleavage, Sophie Wu as Katie's friend Erika, Kofi Natei as a drug dealer, and Stu "Large" Riley as Chris' bodyguard.  Notable standout supporting roles from Xander Berkley as the corrupt Detective Gigante, Michael Rispoli as Frank's sidekick Big Joe, and Omari Hardwick as Damon's former partner Marcus are all very good.  Clark Duke and Evan Peters are also very good as Dave's funny best friends who both share a love of comics and girls.

Lyndsey Fonesca is very good as Katie, Dave's school crush who mistakes him for being gay while learning about her own problems while being fascinated by the world of comics.  Mark Strong is great as Frank D'Amico, a mob boss who is trying to be a good dad while trying to run a business as he deals with some foes.  Christopher Mintz-Plasse is superb as Chris D'Amico/Red Mist, a kid who wants his dad's attention while being his own superhero as Mintz-Plasse gets more to do rather than play the McLovin' character from Superbad.  Nicolas Cage is marvelous as Damon McCready/Big Daddy, a former cop wanting vengeance while finding a chance to become a vigilante as Cage gives a performance that isn't over-the-top.

Newcomer Aaron Johnson is excellent as Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass, the title character who ponders the idea of being a superhero while struggling when that role when he plays Kick-Ass.  Johnson's performance is very realistic in how young teens try to deal with their own awkwardness as the young British actor definitely stands out among his fellow cast members.  Finally, there's Chloe Grace Moretz in the role of Mindy McCready/Hit-Girl.  Moretz's performance is truly the highlight of the film as she can play sweet but also has a wit and sarcasm that is fun to watch while being the kind of young girl you don't want to mess with.

Kick-Ass is a remarkable film by Matthew Vaughn.  While it may not live up to a lot of the ideas and expectations of other comic book films.  It does succeed by being unconventional though it does kind of stray towards conventionality towards the end.  Fans of comic book superheroes will definitely enjoy this for the fact that it tries to be different and edgy.  Even as the comic book films are starting to run out of idea and just go for the big bucks.  In the end, Kick-Ass is a film that definitely kicks ass.

Matthew Vaughn Films:  (Layer Cake) - (Stardust) - X-Men: First Class - Kingsman: The Secret Service

© thevoid99 2011

2 comments:

dtmmr said...

It's combination of action and humor worked out a bit, but by the final act it starts to turn into the same-old superhero crap I have seen again, and again before. Good Review!

thevoid99 said...

True but I was expecting that and I was having fun watching the film.