Like most people I’m sure, when a movie comes out that I want to see, I read a lot of reviews first before I go see it. And when the reviews are bad, it’s frustrating. Not because I think the movie might really be bad, but because I feel like the critic is talking down to me because I wanted to see it in the first place. You’re not smarter than me or better than me just because I like a movie that you don’t, and that goes for everybody. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion of course, I’m not calling anyone an asshole just because they disagree with me, it’s the elitist attitude that I find annoying.
That being said, when I read negative reviews of “Kick-Ass”, I was frustrated but I wasn’t surprised. A comic book, action movie with lowbrow humor, based on a comic by the often hated on Mark Millar. It already had several strikes against it. But I’ve never read the comic and I don’t really have any strong opinions about Mark Millar. I love comic book movies and I like action movies, so I thought it looked great. And I wasn’t disappointed.
“Kick-Ass” asks the question, what would happen if people put on costumes and tried to become superheroes in the real world? Maybe it isn’t the first movie or comic to ask and answer that question, but it definitely puts a new spin on the idea. Dave Lizewski is an average high school student, and a comic book nerd. He decides that the motivation for a masked crime fighter doesn’t have to be a tragedy or a thirst for justice, it just has to be someone who is naïve enough to give it a try. And so he puts on a costume and takes to the streets, and during his first encounter with a pair of criminals, he’s promptly stabbed and hit by a car. The movie’s approach to violence is one of the things that I think makes it feel real, there are consequences. The other heroes that Kick-Ass meets aren’t shy about using guns, and they don’t hesitate to kill. The violence is excessive, at least compared to your average superhero movie, but it never feels gratuitous, because it has a sense of realism with it.
After he recovers, Kick-Ass eventually sets out again, setting his sights a little smaller this time by looking for a lost cat, but he happens upon a fight that he can’t walk away from. Pretty soon, thanks to a video of him that ends up on YouTube, he’s a celebrity. One of the other interesting aspects of the movie regarding how costumed heroes would be received by the real world is the way the media is used. One of the first things that Kick-Ass does is create a FaceBook page, and he uses that to find people who need his help. He’s treated by the media like any other celebrity, complete with late night talk show hosts taking shots at him. It’s an interesting thing to think about, how costumed crime fighters would operate in the real world.
Kick-Ass eventually meets Big Daddy and Hit Girl, two heroes that are far more prepared than he is and far more violent. Even though the movie is mostly told through the perspective of the title character, these two are the real stars. Big Daddy is played by a scenery chewing Nicholas Cage as a psychotic Adam West-esque vigilante, complete with a tragic event in his past, an exaggerated sense of right and wrong, and a personal vendetta against the local mob boss. Hit Girl is his foul mouthed, tough-as-nails daughter/sidekick, and she’s responsible for ninety percent of the ass kicking in the movie. Fans of Cage’s more recent over-the-top character work often debate whether or not he’s aware of his own image and embraced it. His turn as Big Daddy definitely seems to show that he’s in on the joke. It’s melodramatic, but he plays it straight. If he hadn’t, it wouldn’t have worked nearly as well. As for Hit Girl, her character arc is probably the most dramatic and the most interesting, even more so than Kick-Ass. In the end, she shows Kick-Ass what it really takes to be a hero.
“Kick-Ass” is a movie with a mix of styles: Action, drama, comedy. It makes you laugh at things that aren’t funny, and it makes you feel for characters that are largely caricatures of classic comic archetypes. But ultimately in the end, it’s just a fun ride.
My Netflix Rating: Four out of Five Stars