Starring: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenwriter: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman
Here is a movie that begins with promise and ends with disappointment. It’s a movie that tries so hard to be different, and to find a niche that separates itself from other so-called “comic book movies”. Its premise relies on that very idea. Unfortunately, it’s a premise that doesn’t carry through to the end, and along the way quickly unravels.
The film asks the question: why hasn’t anyone actually tried to become a super hero? It partially answers this question. Because it fucking hurts. Aaron Johnson plays Dave Lizewski, a high schooler who asks this question. He subsequently decides to take himself up on the notion, orders a crazy green wetsuit and starts parading around the town calling himself “Kick-Ass”. His first outing doesn’t really work out as planned, and he gets stabbed and then hit by a car. People laughed in the theater when I saw the movie. I didn’t find it funny at all. In fact, quite the opposite. I wondered how anyone could find it funny, even when the movie was billing itself comedically. Maybe that’s part of its problem. No matter. As a result of getting hit by a car, Dave suffers severe nerve damage and is almost completely unable to feel pain. So he puts the suit back on, and in his next encounter, gets his ass kicked again. Only this time, someone films it and puts it on YouTube, where it gets millions of hits and national attention.
This part of the film was very enjoyable to me. I loved the way it played with the notion of super heroes, and super heroes in the real world. It firmly established its footing within our own reality. Then it introduces Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) and her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), two other super heroes. The problem is, they’re actually super. Big Daddy not as much, as he just uses a lot of guns, and being a former cop, one can imagine he knows how to fight. Hit-Girl on the other hand, is a young girl, but is so skilled with a number of weapons that she would give Bruce Lee a run for his money. It doesn’t make sense. Her entrance makes even less sense, where she saves Kick-Ass from a bunch of drug pushers by… Killing them all. Brutally. Violently. The music suggests one is supposed to enjoy all the violence. I don’t know, I just couldn’t get on board.
I could go into more story details, like the cute relationship that develops between Dave and Katie. Or the whole revenge story with Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, but there’s not really much point, because by the time those shorelines flesh themselves out, I stopped caring for the most part. The film establishes itself with rules that one normally applies to the real world, and asks questions that are worth asking in the real world. Its focus on the fame Kick-Ass receives through YouTube and the subsequent media attention is not only interesting, but something that seems perfectly plausible. And then it throws it all out the window. By the end of the movie, when they assault the bad guy’s headquarters, the movie may as well have been just any other super hero or action movie with little insight into anything in the real world.
There are things I don’t want to mention, as they’re spoilers, but let’s just say that the contraption used at the end was just a glaring final straw in the coffin of its original premise. When a film establishes clear rules in its universe, breaking them can’t be done so nonchalantly. In the end, the “realism” that Kick-Ass ends up portraying seemed not only less genuine, but less overall, than say, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. I found their plausibility higher, which is sad, because at least Nolan never led me to believe it was such. Perhaps some people enjoy breaking those rules, but in the case of Kick-Ass, breaking them retty much ruins what could have a been a great, original take on what could easily be considered a formulaic genre.