Should I Watch..? Kick-Ass
What's the big deal?
Kick-Ass is a darkly comic superhero film released in 2010 and is based on the comic book of the same name written by Mark Millar. Directed by Matthew Vaughn, the film tells the tale of an ordinary American teenager who decides to become a crime-fighting superhero despite having no discernible powers. The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moritz, Mark Strong, Nicholas Cage and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. The film generated some controversy when it was released due to the amount of profanity and violence perpetrated by a child but despite this, the film was warmly received by critics and audiences with global takings around $92 million. The film has since developed a cult following and a sequel followed in 2013.
What's it about?
Dave Lizewski is an ordinary teenager struggling through high school in New York. Inspired by his love of comic books, Dave decides to become a masked crime-fighter in real life despite having no combat experience and no super powers. He modifies a wetsuit and arms himself with a couple of batons but on his first outing, he is viciously beaten by a group of thugs and left for dead. While he recuperates, he discovers a rumour gong around his school that suggests Dave is gay and his long-time crush Katie Deauxma decides to befriend him as a result. Dave goes along with the ruse as he prepares for his next outing.
Once again, he finds himself in over his head as he is set upon by thugs. However, footage of Dave fighting back appears on YouTube and as the self-named Kick-Ass, the video quickly goes viral. However, this has some unexpected consequences - he attracts the attention of veteran vigilante Big Daddy and his masked crime-fighter daughter Hit-Girl, who are on the trail of local mob boss Frank D'Amico. But he also attracts Frank's attention whose network of drug dealers have been hit as a result of Big Daddy's efforts and Frank, as it turns out, is not a big fan of comic book heroes...
Aaron Taylor-Johnson *
Dave Lizewski / Kick-Ass
Chris D'Amico / Red Mist
Chloe Grace Moritz
Mindy Macready / Hit-Girl
Damon Macready / Big Daddy
Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn *
Release Date (UK)
26th March, 2010
Action, Comedy, Superhero
What's to like?
Every now and again, you come across a film that is so different that you can't help but love it. That is exactly the case with Kick-Ass because it's bold, unashamed and isn't afraid of pushing boundaries. This is the opposite of a Marvel film with its big budgets and extensive cast-list - this feels like a small, independent feature because that's what it is. And that independence enables the film-makers to indulge in cartoony levels of violence and gore, not to mention language that would make dock workers blush.
The whole thing is lifted further by some truly great performances. Cage is sublime as Big Daddy, mimicking the vocal tics of Adam West (who played the lead in the Sixties Batman TV show) to give the character a quirky, off-beat edge. But the film's real star is Moritz as the purple-haired Hit-Girl whose unusual appearance, potty mouth and combat abilities make her so memorable. The film's story also strives for as much realism as possible and in an odd way, it's almost plausible - which is a bit worrying, frankly. There are plenty of stories of actual vigilantes dressed up and fighting injustice, though one wonders whether they had seen this film first. It doesn't get bogged down in the legal technicalities of such endeavours but it delivers a punchy and entertaining action film that is strictly for adults only.
- Vaughn approached every major studio in order to make the film but was declined every time unless the Hit-Girl character was either dropped or made older. He ultimately raised the money at a dinner party and made the film himself before selling it to Universal for more than he originally asked for.
- Christopher Mintz-Plasse had to learn how to drive a manual car for the scenes with the "Mist Mobile". Vaughn told him that he would have to pay for the Ford Mustang if he crashed it.
- Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Evan Peters, who plays one of Dave's friends in high school, would coincidentally both star in Marvel movies as the same character, Quicksilver. Taylor-Johnson starred in Avengers: Age Of Ultron while Peters first played the role in X-Men: Days Of Future Past.
What's not to like?
It's fair to say that Kick-Ass will not be suitable for everyone - it certainly riled up the more conservative critics when it came out thanks to its relentless blood-letting, violence and language. There may even be parents who are thinking that this film would be suitable for their kids because they liked more mainstream movies like Iron Man or Avengers Assemble. Don't be fooled - when I say the language is bad, I'm talking about the c-word here and the fact that it comes from the least expected character of all seems to make the word's impact as heavy as one of Hit-Girl's punches.
There are gaps in the film's effects which betray the low budget and it is not as entertaining as it should be. Yes, it has its funny moments but the overall concept is very similar to another film released at the time called Super in which Rainn Wilson plays a ordinary man who becomes a costumed vigilante called Crimson Bolt after his wife falls under the spell of a drug dealer. Both have excessive violence but Super felt more sincere somehow thanks to the loneliness of its lead character. Kick-Ass seems to revel in its debauchery, glamorising a lifestyle which will almost certainly end up in death or extreme injury. It doesn't say anything other than "This is cool!" and unfortunately, I didn't agree.
Should I watch it?
This film is the complete opposite of a Marvel feature - bloody, violent and extremely off-kilter, Kick-Ass is perfect for anybody fed up of the seemingly endless catalogue of characters the comics company has at its disposal. It's surprisingly well acted and well produced but the story feels a little weak and doesn't really have a point. If the American Pie movies signify comedy at its lowest common denominator then this is the action movie equivalent.
Great For: comic lovers, wannabe vigilantes, mentally unstable teenagers, independent film-makers
Not So Great For: decency in society, parent's groups, disapproving religious leaders
What else should I watch?
The general consensus is that this film is considerably better than Kick-Ass 2 which throws too many characters into the mix without giving them all appropriate amounts of screen time and fails to capitalise on Moritz's stellar performance as Hit-Girl. It also isn't as shocking as it thinks it is, especially if you've already seen this movie. If you're looking for a superhero film that isn't from Marvel then you have plenty of options. Pixar gave us The Incredibles which sees a whole family of suburban superheroes trying to live incognito while Tim Burton's Batman is still worth a watch these days, even if it has been trumped by The Dark Knight trilogy.
But why all the hate for Marvel? The films may be released with all the regularity of a chiming clock but there are some cracking films that any comic-book fan would enjoy from the classic origin tale of Iron Man to the reinvention of Captain America in his own trilogy to the bizarre space-opera that is Guardians Of The Galaxy. Granted, I'm not sold on Thor just yet and Black Widow is crying out for her own solo movie but the fact is, Marvel is currently ruling the roost when it comes to capes and that's fine by me.
© 2017 Benjamin Cox