by Mel Valentin
When we first meet Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his 12-year old daughter, Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz), central characters in writer-director Matthew Vaughan’s ("Stardust," "Layer Cake") adaptation of Mark Millar ("Nemesis," "Fantastic Four," "Wolverine: Old Man Logan," "Ultimates," "The Authority," "Superman: Red Son") and John Romita, Jr.’s ("The Avengers," "World War Hulk," "The Eternals," "Amazing Spider-Man") coming of (teen)age/superhero parody comic book series, "Kick-Ass," they’re standing 30-40 feet apart in an disused, overgrown parking lot, seemingly ready to throw down, Western-style. Only Macready has a gun, though.After convincing Mindy to stand her ground, Macready shoots her in the chest, lifting her off her feet, and depositing her on her back. Luckily for Mindy, she’s wearing a bulletproof Kevlar vest. The vest doesn’t stop Mindy from feeling pain or discomfort, but it does save her life. A bitter ex-hero cop-turned-vigilante, Macready has spent seven years preparing Mindy for her role as Hit-Girl, the masked avenger/costumed vigilante/sidekick to Macready’s Batman-Punisher-Midnighter-inspired alter ego, Big Daddy. Macready has made it his life’s goal to take down Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), the local mob boss he blames for the loss of his wife and his former career as a police officer.
"With no power comes no responsibility (and major beatdowns)."
Hit-Girl and Big Daddy may be central to the world of non-super-powered superheroes found in Kick-Ass, but the role of (nominal) central character goes to Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an exceptionally unexceptional teenager and über-comic book geek who dreams of becoming a costumed superhero. Despite the sensible warnings from his friends, Marty (Clark Duke) and Todd (Evan Peters), Dave purchases a green scuba suit and mask from an online retailer, throws on work boots, grabs a metal pipe, and ventures into the big, bad world to do some good by becoming a crime-fighter. Completely unprepared, Dave’s first encounter with thugs sends him to the hospital for a months-long stay and multiple operations that leave him with Wolverine-like metal implants and deadened nerve endings.
Still (dumbly) eager to prove his superhero bona fides, Dave returns to nighttime vigilantism. He barely survives his second encounter, this time with three thugs of indeterminate ethnicity, but thanks to an over-eager bystander with a video phone, he becomes an internet celebrity overnight. Dave creates a MySpace page dedicated to his new alter-ego, Kick-Ass, and begins to take requests from those-in-need. Dave singles out a request from an attractive, out-of-his-league, high school classmate, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), who, in an unsubtle twist, makes Dave her gay BFF (he goes along with the misunderstanding). Katie wants Kick-Ass to warn off her ex-boyfriend and drug dealer, Rasul (Kofi Natei). Once again, Kick-Ass gets in over his head, but Hit-Girl, making her crime-fighting debut, arrives in time to save him from another brutal beatdown (and worse).
Once Hit-Girl and Big Daddy enter Kick-Ass, Dave/Kick-Ass becomes relegated to secondary status. Without a compelling rationale for continuing his superhero exploits (outside of becoming less ordinary and winning the high-school girl of his dreams, both of which he achieves), let alone a villain to take down (he gets one, but not until the end of the film, a segue into a hoped-for sequel), Dave/Kick-Ass acts more as a catalyst to the actions of other characters than an active protagonist in his own right. While he play-acts at being a superhero, turning Kick-Ass into part cautionary tale and part superhero parody, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are the real deal, costumed vigilantes willing to use every means necessary, up to and including lethal force, to defeat D’Amico.
Superhero-wannabes begin to appear in the wake of Kick-Ass’ media- and internet-fueled celebrity, including Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Frank’s comic book-obsessed, milquetoast son, eventually bringing the major and minor characters together for the climactic confrontation, but not before Hit-Girl and, to a lesser extent, Big Daddy, leave a trail of mob goon bodies in their wake. Unique to American comics (but not, most likely, Japanese comics), Hit-Girl is a merciless vigilante, raised by her father, a father she adores (but without a trace of sexuality or eroticism), into a stone-cold, cold-blooded killer, proficient in the use of knives, swords, handguns, and martial arts. Over the course of Kick-Ass’ 117-minute running time, she unapologetically slaughters numerous thugs, usually accompanied by profanity have led to complaints from parents’ groups (and that’s just from the red or green band trailers). These groups will have far more to complain about once they actually see Kick-Ass in its entirety.
Critiques (and criticisms) of Kick-Ass will undoubtedly focus on the combination of Hit-Girl and the R-rated (ultra) violence. Despite the general perception of comic books as a medium for preteens and teens (it’s not and hasn’t been for at least two decades), Kick-Ass was meant for adults or teens accompanied by presumably discerning adults (the “guardians” mentioned in R-ratings). Kick-Ass undoubtedly deserves the R-rating the MPAA gave it. Dave’s failed attempts at superheroics also contribute to the R-rating. He’s nothing if not a masochist (as, Millar and Vaughan seem to suggest, comic book fans are), but it’s Hit-Girl that proves to be both “star” and object of criticism that parents’ groups, some adults, and some critics, will find morally objectionable or morally repugnant.
Hit-Girl’s merciless killing certainly takes the vigilante-as-superhero character to its logical, nihilistic extreme, but there’s more to her actions that meets the non-discerning eye. Moviegoers can ponder the underlying commentary on superhero-themed comic books and comic book fans eager to see superheroics pushed into new levels of sadomasochism and amorality. It’s not a particularly deep point, one neither Millar (in the comic book) or Vaughan (in the film) are particularly interested in exploring in any depth. They’re more interested in the visceral charge (and catharsis) that come with the on-panel or onscreen fulfillment of superhero power fantasies. There’s an even an allusion to videogaming and its potential for desentizing the characters, specifically Hit-Girl, who sees murder and mutilation as a game, to the real-world effects of violence. But maybe that’s giving Millar and Vaughan too much credit.Critique aside, "Kick-Ass" contains a surprisingly strong emotional element: The father-daughter relationship between Hit-Girl and Big Daddy (an underutilized Nicholas Cage, using an Adam West-inspired accent under the mask). Out of their costumes, Damon and Mindy Macready make for a deranged, disturbed family unit. As Hit Girl and Big Daddy, they make an unbeatable dynamic duo (with the exception, of course, of the original dynamic duo, Batman, the Caped Crusader, and Robin, the Boy Wonder). In or out of their costumes, they provide emotional core otherwise missing from "Kick-Ass." Big Daddy and Hit-Girl are the central reason and not the title character that make "Kick-Ass" a viscerally worthwhile moviegoing experience.
link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19779&reviewer=402
originally posted: 04/15/10 16:00:00