Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not as Cool as Scott Pilgrim: A Review of Kick Ass

Like Scott Pilgrim, but with guns and stuff. Actually,
it's nothing like Scott Pilgrim. 
So was Kick Ass bad ass or as the titular character is once called, “ass kicked?” Questions similar seem have to hit the media community hard and the answers have been quite varied. Some such as The Guardian newspaper’s Peter Bradshaw praised it as “outrageous” and “very funny,” while others were not so kind. Roger Ebert, one of America’s most prominent critics, gave the film one star out of four calling Kick Ass “morally reprehensible.” Personally, I find myself standing in between these two sides and can understand both points of view. Director Matthew Vaughn has brought forth something that most will either love or hate, something that is enjoyable enough to watch but not particularly substantial.

The concept behind Vaughn’s work is that there are real life “superheroes,” not like Spiderman, who has actual superpowers, or even Batman, who has infinite money and loads of gadgets. Think Watchmen, only this time it’s supposed to be funny rather than serious. I say supposed to be funny because Kick Ass is only humorous sporadically throughout the film. Problematically, it does not stick to the comedy side as often as it should, and the movie often gets carried away with focusing too long on the dramatic side.

Can't you see this guy saying "no bro"
On the comedy side it commits a cardinal sin. The whole point of Kick Ass is to act as a parody of the superhero genre. At first, it does this fairly well by presenting its fictional world as something that could actually exist. Viewers don’t need to work overly hard to suspend their disbelief at what they are being shown. With this film, that is definitely a good thing. However, by the latter half of the film, it’s clear that Director Vaughn and company have no intention of keeping things realistic, and they end up doing all the same things as the source material they are supposed to be parodying. When are filmmakers going to realize that copying the stuff they are supposed to be poking fun at does not work? Probably never, and this is Kick Ass’ biggest drawback. Anyways, a dorky little guy named Dave Lizewski is Kick Ass, the superhero that he created. He’s sick of just being a regular kid at school and dreams of donning a nice pair of tights and kicking criminal...butt. Of course, Lizewski isn’t the only person to have come up with this idea. Big Daddy and his daughter Hit Girl are the two true masters on the street living in a secret hideout packed with weapons of every sort. They are waiting to take down Frank D’Amico, the mob boss who ruined their life. Nicolas Cage, who is Big Daddy, is relatively famous for incidentally coming across as a complete tool (for lack of a more professional descriptor) in much of his work. Here, now that he is acting that way intentionally, he is quite hilarious in a creepy, awkward sort of way. To illustrate this one need look no further than the shooting range. Once, Cage shoots his own child while she dons a bulletproof vest just so that she knows what it feels like. Chloe Grace Moretz, as this little girl, is spot on as well as a foul mouthed, relentlessly violent vigilante working as her father’s sidekick. This performance was specifically what Robert Ebert found so repulsive and appalling about Kick Ass. Controversy is bound to arise when children under the age of thirteen are depicted frequently dropping the f-bomb and dismembering the bodies of various individuals using a double edged sword.

Seriously, other than maybe National Treasure
what is one movie where Nicolas Cage isn't a tool?
Apart from Cage and Moretz, there are no particularly interesting performances to be seen here. Aaron Johnson as Dave Lizewkski/Kick Ass is a subpar Michael Cera wannabe and Mark Strong as Frank D’Amico merely channels his previous performances as the villain, Lord Blackwood in Sherlock Holmes and Sir Godfrey in Robin Hood being fine examples. 

All in all, Kick Ass is worth seeing if only to indulge in a silly and amusing take on a familiar genre. Bullet-ridden and packing a few laughs, the film is, if nothing else, mildly amusing. It’s sort of like a trashy comic book: glossy and shiny, cartoonish and shallow, and a work that can’t be taken too seriously.

YAMB Official Grade: Neutral

Nate S Grade: Aesthetics: B+
Plot: B-
Characters: B-
Acting: B
Overall Grade: B-

“You Sack of Wine!”
-Nate S


  1. "A trashy comic book" as in the book it was based on? The book is better than the movie in several cases. It doesn't fall off the deep end of parody to become an entry in the genre it is parodying, and it for all of it's ridiculous violence and unbelievable plot, the characters have realistic emotions allowing us to care for them (unlike in the movie). I won't reveal the specific deviations from the book as that would be spoiler territory, but I will recommend that anyone interested in this movie check out the graphic novel first.

  2. I'm pretty sure he was just talking about comic books in general.

  3. I wasn't referring to comic books in general as trashy, more that it this was like a specific comic book that was trashy. I was trying to make it tie in, maybe it didn't come off right. Some such as yourself may disagree about the parodying bit. Personally, I just thought the point was to tease stuff like say Batman....but when you have a character such as Big Daddy literally does everything Batman would do in a mimmicking sort of way it just didn't work really. The characters are interesting and believable-ish, but never particularly wow-ed me in any way. Maybe I was being a little harsh.
    -Nate S


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