Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Kick-Ass **

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloë Moretz, Mark Strong
Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Yancy Butler, Lyndsy Fonseca
Clark Duke, Evan Peters, Michael Rispoli

Based on energy alone, Kick-Ass could very well ride a wave that would cloud the fact that it's a very inconsistent, almost incoherent, movie.
Its concept is quite a simple one, as it wonders why don't superheroes exist when practically anyone can become whatever they want.
The idea is executed by average teenager Dave Lizewski (Johnson) who buys himself a wetsuit, a couple of clubs and goes out to the streets looking for people to help using the name Kick-Ass.
"I always wondered why no one did it before me" he asks after he accidentally becomes an internet phenomenon and the threat of paranoid mob king Frank D'Amico (Strong, who's become the new go-to-guy for over the top villains) whose plans have been botched by a masked vigilante.
D'Amico ignores the fact that there are more heroes than Kick-Ass (giving the plot one of its first inconsistencies along with the constant disappearance of Dave's eyeglasses...) and one of them has a personal vendetta against him.
It's none other than Big Daddy (Cage) a once honored cop who fell victim to the mobster's allies and is now plotting a huge revenge against him, with his twelve year old daughter who calls herself Hit-Girl (Moretz).
Soon the heroes' storylines will cross as they face the evil D'Amico and the movie tries to be all of the following: a quirky indie like superhero movie, a Tarantino ripoff, an accurate social commentary on adolescents and the media, an old fashioned revenge story, a coming of age drama, a genre satire and a comedy of manners.
With all the different stylistic currents going through the movie, the real heroic feat is how director Vaughn manages to make something out of it and especially for that something to be vastly entertaining.
Much is owed to the superb cast who make the most out of the poor character development they're given.
Cage is at his idiosyncratic best (how he can be so good and then so terrible is a mystery) while Strong fills his role with morbid delight.
Yet the movie belongs to the young; Johnson, who technically has to carry the entire movie on his shoulders creates a charming hybrid of a Michael Cera performance with Daniel Radcliffe's unwilling blooming sexuality.
And the stunning Moretz, who also becomes the film's most controversial character, takes over the screen in such a way that you won't believe how young she actually is.
Her ability to be a complete bad-ass, yet preserve sweet, innocent traits is a remarkable work.
Too bad that it's especially with Hit-Girl that Vaughn reveals that he didn't really know how to handle the material.
For all the Tarantino-esque hyper-violence of the movie, there's also its pervading need to be as real as possible.
So in this tonal oxymoron, the film hits a contradiction that makes it impossible to take "serious" as a fantasy or as a fantastical take on reality.
Kick-Ass should've taken a cue from one of the basic paradigms of comic superheroes that make us wonder where will the villains who want to destroy the world move to.
This idea in comic books isn't usually taken seriously because we all know the hero will arrive in time to save the day, making the ultimate evil plan a complete implausibility.
But what can we make of a movie that constantly reminds us of the hero's ordinariness? If Dave's Kick-Ass isn't an actual superhero, what makes it alright to watch a little girl shooting gangsters?
The film tries to inhabit parallel universes: one where the comic book fantasy rules and even the youngest kids can be what they want and another completely different place where these very kids might want to be villains instead and pack guns in their lunchboxes to shoot their classmates.
Sometimes it's our world, sometimes it's superhero land...isn't this impossibility to differentiate between fantasy and reality what actually triggered several school massacres during the last decade?
Kick-Ass might be enjoyable but it gets wrong what a great superhero movie got very right: it has no consciousness of the responsibilities that come with power.


Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Aaron Johnson really is having a big year. This, Nowhere Boy, The Greatest...I wonder if he'll find success afterwards.

how he can be so good and then so terrible is a mystery
Preach to the choir.

Castor said...

Interesting take. I thought this movie was mired in complete fantasy so everything happening on-screen wasn't as offensive or shocking as it would be in real life. If you thought it was somewhat blurred, then others might have and it's probably why some critics were so offended by the movie.

Jose said...

Andrew: indeed and I find him so charismatic.

Haha you do dislike Cage huh?

Castor: maybe but then Dave insists so much on the fact that he's living in reality. I don't mind the violence either way, I mind the tonal inconsistencies.

Luke said...

I'm glad you're willing to concede that it was at least entertaining, which I completely agree with. I was definitely entertained. I can see your problems with it, though. It does have a serious case of identity confusion in terms of genres. And Andrew, I'm with ya! NIcolas Cage is sort of a waste in everything outside of Adaptation. :)

Jose said...

Luke: are you kidding me? It's a total hoot to watch! I admired the energy of it a lot but it's quite confused, in a way like a teenager.
Cage is great in "Bad Lieutenant" and "Matchstick Men" too :P

Simon said...

Perfectly alright. Nicholas Cage deserves a metal, yo.

I was kind of surprised that Aaron Johnson is British.

Jose said...

Simon: you have to see his great turn as John Lennon!
Still impressive American accent though.

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Yes, hatred for Cage is something I find difficult to shake off. I just find his face offensive (shrugs, don’t ask)…and Luke Adaptation does little to thrill me. I don’t like Streep there, who’s obviously trying hard, don’t like Cage and don’t care for Chris Cooper. So, no. Oddly enough though…I liked Cage in Face/Off. I wonder what that reveals about me…

(PS. on Johnson, his American accent is excellent. It's weird watching him AND Carey turn in good accents and looking just lovely together in The Greatest)

CMrok93 said...

I hate to say it but I enjoyed this movie! Mostly because it works on levels that were criticized.

Jose said...

CMrok93: I really enjoyed myself too but that doesn't make it a good movie.