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Overall Rating

Awesome: 25.45%
Worth A Look30.91%
Just Average: 14.55%
Pretty Crappy: 23.64%
Sucks: 5.45%

5 reviews, 25 user ratings

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by Peter Sobczynski

"Not Quite"
2 stars

Maybe it is the result of having largely eschewed comic books during my formative years (with the inexplicable exception of Richie Rich) or maybe it is an offshoot of my general vague disinterest in large-scale fantasy epics--whatever the reason, the fact of the matter is that I have never been an enormous fan of the superhero movie genre. I am not completely resistant to their charms--I am able to recognize and appreciate the genius of such films as “Superman,” “Hulk,” “Spider-Man 2” and the Christopher Nolan “Batman” movies--but for the most part, they tend to strike me for the most part as little more than mock epics that spend the first two-thirds of their running times telling more or less the same origin story and the last third showing bizarrely clothed and barely defined characters pounding the crap out of each other amidst an orgy of elaborate special effects. With so many films of this type hitting multiplexes in the last couple of years and with even more on the horizon, it was perhaps inevitable that a film like “Kick-Ass” would come along to satirize the conventions of the genre by telling a tale of an ordinary schnook who decides to make himself into a superhero despite a complete lack of superpowers, elaborate crime fighting gadgetry or even the most basic powers of self-preservation. The idea sounds funny enough, I suppose, but the trouble with the film is that while it starts off spoofing silly, stupid and super-violent superhero extravaganzas, it soon transforms itself into an especially wearisome and toothless example of the very thing that it is trying to mock in the first place and what should have come across as a darkly funny riff on the likes of “Watchmen” winds up coming across like “Hero at Large” with a significantly higher body count.

The film tells the story of Dave Lipetsk (Aaron Johnson), a nerdy high-school student who is even a bit of a dweeb among other social outcasts--he is a comic book fanatic, he is invisible to practically everyone except the local bullies and when the school hottie, Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) takes a shine to him, it is because she sees him as the gay best friend that she has dreamed of having ever since she was a little girl. Perhaps in order to solidify his standing as the geekiest of geeks, he begins to speculate on why in the long history of comic book superheroes that no one has ever attempted to try to emulate them in real life. Even after his only two friends (Clark Duncan and Evan Peters) explain in detail why people haven’t--superpowers aren’t real, the super-gadgetry doesn’t exist or is too expensive and anyone running around in a silly costume attempting to combat crime is liable to be killed a hundred times over by the end of their first day of attempted heroics--Dave isn’t deterred and with his identity hidden underneath a outfit made from a converted wetsuit, he steps out onto the mean streets of New York to fight crime under the alias of Kick-Ass. Unsurprisingly, his first attempt at derring-do fails spectacularly but he is undeterred and after a few weeks of recovery, he tries again and catches a break when his attempted rescue of a man being beaten by a group of thugs (which culminates in him begging an onlooker to call 911) becomes a sensation on YouTube. Before long, Kick-Ass becomes a heroic figure and when it appears that he is interfering in the activities of local mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), the gangster vows to bring the interloper down in the most violent manner possible, even enlisting his own nerdy son, Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to pose as fellow superhero Red Mist in order to lure Dave into a trap.

What D’Amico fails to realize is that Kick-Ass, for all of the hype that he generates, is utterly ineffectual and that his troubles are being caused by Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), a father-daughter dynamic duo who are far more successful in eliminating bad guys in the most violent manner possible. In flashbacks, we learn that Big Daddy is a former honest cop named Damon Macready, that he was set up and sent to prison on the order of D’Amico and that his pregnant wife succumbed to the pressure of having a husband behind bars and took her own life. However, the child, a daughter named Mindy, lived and after being released from prison and reunited with Mindy, Damon decided that the best plan of attack was to train the both of them to become superheroes--okay, “vigilantes” is probably a little closer to the truth--so that they could one day wreak havoc on D’Amico and his empire in order to get revenge. Their paths cross with Kick-Ass when he gets in trouble with a roomful of drug dealers linked to D’Amico and Hit-Girl saves him by brutally killing them all single-handedly. After this, Dave wants to retire for good but circumstances force him to don his outfit one last time in order to help lead one last assault on D’Amico and prove that he truly has the power within to be a hero after all.

Based on the comic book by Mark Millar (whose work was also the inspiration for “Wanted”) & John Romita Jr., “Kick-Ass” has a premise that, while perhaps not the most startlingly original ever produced, has the potential to work as either a spoof or a celebration of the superhero genre. The trouble, however, is that instead of simply picking one approach and sticking with it, the film attempts to do both at the same time without demonstrating much facility for either one. As a straightforward superhero tale, it doesn’t work because the hero is powerfully uninteresting--after a few minutes, most viewers will want to stuff him into the nearest locker--the villain couldn’t be blander if he tried and the storyline is just the standard-issue origin tale with nary a unique twist other than to include more vulgarity and bloodshed than is typically found in the genre. (Although we will get to this in a moment, parents contemplating taking their kids to this film on the assumption that a superhero film can’t be that harmful should know that this is rated “R” for a reason.) As a spoof, it really doesn’t work because outside of the conceits of a doofus hero repeatedly being pummeled and abused and of a pre-teen girl brutally slaughtering with guns, knives and spears while sweetly using language that would make David Mamet blush, it doesn’t really seem to have much of a satirical point-of-view to speak of. I don’t know whether this is inherent to the original comic or if the film was done this way so as not to offend the fanboy audience that it needs to attract in order to succeed at the box-office, but you will find more pungent and interesting commentary on the superhero mythos and the grip that it has had on popular culture in places ranging from “The Incredibles” to lesser episodes of “The Greatest American Hero.”

And even if you ignore the questions of tone and approach completely, the film still doesn’t work very well. The screenplay is a meandering mess containing too many characters and too many subplots that go absolutely nowhere. For example, the film takes the time to establish the girlfriend character and then doesn’t bother to do anything with her other than the painfully unfunny subplot in which she thinks Dave is gay--she doesn’t even get taken hostage during the climax. Another big problem is that director Matthew Vaughn never really seems to have a firm grip on the material. This is especially odd when you consider that his first film, “Layer Cake,” showed that he had a sure hand at handling violent and ironically funny material and that his second, “Stardust,” showed that he was equally adept at handling a large-scale fantasy--alas, for whatever reason, he never figures out a way to bring those two great tastes together here for the most part. He serves up healthy doses of carnage throughout and while some of the over-the-top gore is funny at first, it becomes fairly tiresome after a while--there is a thin line between a straightforward exploding head and an ironic one and after a while, it tends to disappear completely--and while the notion of positing a young girl as the supreme death dealer of the bunch may sound superficially edgy to some (at least enough to engender some pre-release controversy), it is a gimmick that also runs out of steam and Vaughn’s insistence of underscoring her slaughter scenes with songs like “Bad Reputation” and the theme to “The Banana Splits” only makes them seem even more juvenile and crass in their attempts to shock viewers with their so-called audacity. (The only people likely to find these scene even remotely transgress are the kind of fan boy wannabes who claim that their favorite movie is “Battle Royale” without ever actually having seen it.)

What makes “Kick-Ass” so frustrating is that there are things about it that do work from time to time. Although New York City has never looked more Canadian than it does here, the lack of a glossy visual style is a good fit with the relatively low-tech nature of the story. There are a few scattered laughs here and there--I for one was amused to see a movie theater advertising “The Spirit 3.” Most importantly, nearly all the scenes involving Big Daddy and Hit-Girl succeed thanks to the pitch-perfect performances of Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz--the former is a scream as a sunny-face lunatic who seems to have learned his oratory patterns from the Adam West School of Elocution on a day when William Shatner was the guest speaker while Moritz adds the kind of unexpectedly (and slightly troubling) zing not seen in an action film of this type since Natalie Portman made her debut in “Leon.” Hell, I even went to see it again on the off-chance that I might like it a little better the second time around--as it turned out, the annoying stuff came across ever worse and even the good stuff began to wear out its welcome. I can’t recommend “Kick-Ass” because the interesting elements wind up getting lost amidst the shabby storytelling and confused tone. However, now that the premise and the characters have been more or less established in this installment, there is the chance that future films (and one has to assume that sequels are already being planned) will have the luxury of telling more coherent and interesting stories. If that happens, the result will hopefully be a “Kick-Ass” film that actually lives up to its title.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=19779&reviewer=389
originally posted: 04/15/10 09:57:05
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival For more in the 2010 South By Southwest Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

4/18/13 Charles Tatum Ultra-violent, satirical, and worth a look. 4 stars
8/28/12 Alex Figueroa It was a bit cheesy but towards the end it got better. It was alright. 3 stars
5/12/12 randy todger awesome 5 stars
4/08/11 mr.mike It was damn good. 4 stars
3/09/11 art "KICK ASS!,WAS NO KISS ASS!" 5 stars
2/19/11 Dom Gutlessly superficial, unrewarding, deplorable and tedious. 1 stars
8/14/10 gc Why is kick ass even in this movie? 4 stars
8/04/10 Dan Two words: Hit-Girl. 5 stars
7/31/10 Enrique I thought it was going to be like spy kids. Boy was I wrong! Awesome movie! 5 stars
6/14/10 art the BEST thing about this movie was HIT-GIRL! 4 stars
5/26/10 Eric Perski Best film I've seen in years, a revelation. Totally wasn't expecting this and it was awesom 5 stars
5/20/10 ForAnAngel BEST MOVIE IN YEARS!!!!! 5 stars
5/11/10 Moeyanger Tarentino meets Apatow- Loved Hit-Girl 4 stars
5/09/10 Josie Cotton is a goddess The closest thing I've seen to a mainstrem Troma movie 5 stars
5/07/10 Luisa Super cool movie. Please don't take kids to watch it. 5 stars
5/07/10 black Sunshine why review a film of a genre you don't like? 5 stars
5/04/10 dognose Thank you for making this film, whoever made this film 5 stars
5/03/10 barrow#1 freakn hiarious and had a good story behind it. i loved it! 5 stars
4/22/10 Man Out 6 Bucks Hollywood going hentai 2 stars
4/21/10 Ronald Holst A little to stupid for most I would imagine 1 stars
4/19/10 Matt A Tarentino-ish comic film. Not as reflective as it would like, but still ridiculously fun. 5 stars
4/18/10 Unexpected I really didn't know what to expect..took my daughter and WOW! HitGirl was unreal! We loved 5 stars
4/17/10 action movie fan good start but turns deja vu spiderman meets kill bill both were better 3 stars
4/16/10 Mackenzie Everything the title promises. Go see it now! 5 stars
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  16-Apr-2010 (R)
  DVD: 03-Aug-2010

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