Originally Reviewed 5/10/2010
When it comes to why I leave the comfort of my cozy apartment and brave the streets of Manhattan to see a film, it all comes down to motive. Sometimes, I want to get swept up in an emotional drama, other times I want to laugh along with an audience and sometimes I simply want to watch things blow up on a big screen. When it came to Kick Ass, I just wanted to see some serious…well…ass kicking. Story, plot and acting be damned, I just wanted to give my endorphins a bit of a rush and hopefully have a good time at the flicker show. Imagine my dismay when I walked out of the movie, not disgusted, not exhilarated but thoroughly uneasy.
Kick Ass is the second feature film from director Matthew Vaughn and is a far cry from his first flick, Stardust. The story centers around a geeky comic book kid who, after getting fed up with the bullies of the world knocking him down, creates an alter ego named, not surprisingly, Kick Ass. After a few brushes with ne’er-do-wellers, often with disastrous results, Kick Ass finds himself the center of an Internet phenomenon and gardeners the attention of two “real” superheroes: Big Daddy, played wonderfully by Nicholas Cage, and Hit Girl, his 12 year old daughter. Add into the mix Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and you have yourself a decent cast to start with.
The film has a promising start as I really enjoyed the home grown superhero aspect and connected with the lead who only wanted to see what ordinary Joe Shmoes could do to make life better for the people around him. When he’s in the comic book store with his friends wondering why regular people can’t be superheroes, the film touched on something that was simple yet profound. I even excused the silly way Kick Ass gets his “powers”…again, this isn’t a documentary or anything. Unfortunately for the film, the tone drastically changed in the second and third act.
My main problem with Kick Ass isn’t with the violence, which isn’t that bad, or the action, which isn’t that intense, but it’s with the overall tone and feel. Kick Ass could have been a whole lot of fun, even with the body count, but the film gets mired in an odd desire to be everything all at once. The movie isn’t content with being a rousing yet violent comic book adaptation, with a homegrown feel. The film also wants to be dark yet teen comedy, gritty yet campy and inspiring yet shocking. And, after all that, the film STILL could have held together, somehow, someway, if it weren’t for the nasty undertones, primarily surrounding the character of Hit Girl.
Now, I know 90% of you are saying, “C’mon, she was awesome!” or “Wow, what are you, 80?” or “Time to change your Huggies, Grandpa”. Sorry, but there’s something simply not right about a 12 year old girl brutally slaying 40 henchmen, getting shot in chest by a ’38 and throwing around the F-word like it’s the word “was”, especially when there is no need for it. For the sake of Pete, there’s one scene where Hit Girl is lying flat on her back getting the snot beaten out of her by a 40 year old man. I’m all for comic violence, but that’s just mean and unsettling.
The problem is that the Hit Girl character, while very well played by Chloe Grace Mortez, is only cussing and killing up a storm for pure shock value. If the language had some connection to the story, you could excuse it, but when it’s there just to get people talking about it, it looses all validity. For example, if this was a dramatic film about a young girl living in the streets, maybe then the language would have some context, but here, it’s reduced to a Howard Stern bit. To my mind, if we’re at the point in pop culture where we need a mass murdering pre-teen to yell C U Next Tuesday to get us giggling, sorry, but I can’t get behind that.
But, it’s not all Hit Girl’s fault. The second half of the film is replete with an almost sadistic undertone that bogs down the story to the point where I just wanted it to be over. Shame to, because I really wanted to kick back with Kick Ass and enjoy the story of an everyday kid becoming more than who he his. Kick Ass is like an apple wrapped in a coating of stomach bile; there’s a center there that’s worth getting to but you have to stomach a lot of sourness before you reach it and it makes you wonder why they didn’t just omit the blech in the first place. Hopefully the eventual sequel tones down the nastiness and re-focuses as there is a lot to enjoy in this world of real life superheroes. Just would’ve been nice to enjoy it without getting smacked in the face by the random brutality.
Note: This is a solid 6 out of 10 film for me, but since I can’t honestly recommend this film to anybody, I had to mark it at 50%
Score – 50%