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Kick Ass
Genre Action
Year: 2010
 
Review:

The Kick-Ass comic book to film adaptation was inevitable. Come on, if Catwoman gets one, surely everyone's entitled to slap on some spandex and snarl? While you daydream about Halle Berry in a cat suit, you should know that her follow-up to that Oscar-whining "performance" in Monster's Balls is the equivalent of kitty litter and has nothing on Michelle Pfeiffer in Batman Returns.

Plain, simple and cheesy, Kick-Ass kicks ass. It's an instant comic book cult hit, a special blend of Watchmen, The Professional, Superbad and Spider-Man. Our primary hero and title character, Dave Lizewski is a Peter Parker knock-off. He forms part of the unnoticed high school geek elite, an indistinct, acne-riddled kid with a libido the size of Hellboy's right hand. In fact, it's surprising that his hand isn't as big as Hellboy's given the amount of self-congratulatory handshakes he gives himself.

Did I mention that Dave likes comic books? He loves comics, visiting the local NYC comic book store more often than Clarke Kent uses the phone booth. However, when he decides to become a real-life superhero with no hidden talents, flying abilities or super human strength... he basically starts a Fight Club for one. After a severe beating, the wet suit clad vigilante makes his world debut with the help of social networking and a website called (open air quotes) You-Tube (close air quotes) as Kick-Ass... avenger of the downtrodden and reachable by foot.

So there you have it... no nuclear waste, spider bites or alien planets - just old-fashioned urban anger - the same stuff that fueled Ben Stiller as Furious in Mystery Men. The story knocks itself up a notch when Big Daddy and Hitgirl enter the fray as violence escalates and the body count starts to pile up. This isn't ordinary violence, mainly because most of it's being executed by an 11-year-old. Imagine Uma Thurman as a midget in Kill Bill: Vol. 1 to get the vibe... it's Tarantino style action as a hotch-potch of post-Matrix bullet-time and a series of acrobatic kung fu moves lock 'n load in the action set pieces.

Hell, the only reason you don't turn away is because it's happening to hoodlums and mob bosses... they had it coming! Vigilante street justice settles in the gray area for most people, who are altogether scared and relieved to see the bad guys get their heads blown off. Sure, it's wrong... you can't have some caped avenger lopping people's heads off with a Swiss army knife on the back of a motorbike because they're littering... where do you draw the line? Well, Kick-Ass doesn't... and if it had, the line would be too blurred or scuffed to be taken seriously. What starts as a teen high school comedy flares up into a full-blown superhero kill-fest in the vein of Watchmen meets Tiny Toons.

Matthew Vaughn directs what could be a mixture of his previous two directorial efforts, Stardust and Layer Cake. There's a strong influence from The Professional (aka Leon) in Kick-Ass with one corridor scene in particular. Just imagine Natalie Portman's character was as cold and calculated as Jean Reno and they both wore ridiculous fancy dress costumes and you'd have a splitting image of Nic Cage and Chloe Moretz. Kick-Ass also has a strong dose of Superbad in its premature brand of teen comedy, most evident from the casting of Christopher Mintz-Plasse (or McLovin') with blood substituting penises. Spider-Man forms the arc of Dave's superhero development and the romance, while Watchmen's down-to-earth superhero vigilante variety and formula filters throughout.

The only difference is that Kick-Ass combines the two, the wicked humour of Superbad with the violence of films like The Professional and Watchmen. It's an entertaining, yet strange mix of genres... making it seem like a kiddies film on the one hand and a hard core gangster film on the other. Imagine Heath Ledger's The Joker from The Dark Knight was in the director's chair and you've got a twisted superhero movie with a cheesy premise and dark violent comic action.

The cast all get a nod for future cult endeavors just for being part of Kick-Ass. Former child star, Aaron Johnson, a relatively unknown actor with a similar superhero appeal to Tom Welling takes the lead in Kick-Ass. He's a likable kid and really settles into his character as the film shifts into overdrive. Chloe Moretz is just as surprisingly good as Abigail Breslin was in Little Miss Sunshine, making the 11-year-old killing machine a believable reality with the help of some cool stunts. Everyone will remember Christopher Mintz-Plasse as McLovin' from Superbad and he fleshes out a similar role to James Franco in Spider-Man. Mark Strong creates a formidable mob boss in Frank like Stanley Tucci on steroids, while Nic Cage distracts us from Ghost Rider with his passion for comic books in his take on the gun-toting Big Daddy.

The direction is ballsy, the cast are phenomenal, the soundtrack is downloadable and the story is riveting enough for Kick-Ass to live up to its name. However, it doesn't strike the right pose in the same way that Watchmen fell short of brilliance. It's not that there was something missing... it was more a case of the fine tuning. Deciding to give Dr. Manhattan's genitalia extended screen time in Watchmen made it seem like a poor product placement for Viagra, while overcooking the violence to the level of fetish in Kick-Ass also didn't seem right. Add that to it's childish tongue-in-cheek undertone and it's difficult to measure the extent of damage each factor has on their finished product.  

Kick-Ass is unabashedly proud of its pick 'n mix of genres and will definitely harness a cult following in the years to come. It'll be remembered for its brew of violence, youth-centric flair and cult cool class - borrowing aspects from better action, crime and superhero films. Kick-Ass has primed itself for a much-anticipated sequel and will hopefully continue an upward trajectory in its attempt at R-rated world saturation. The cool kids will get it, others will pretend to... Watch this space.   

The bottom line: Kick-ass.

  

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