Kick Ass (2010) dir. Matthew Vaughn
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage
By Alan Bacchus
Cudos to the filmmakers who refused to ‘tone down’ this film and thus make it palatable to broader audiences and thus more box-office friendly. Unfortunately it’s a shame the film didn’t make more waves at the box office, because ‘Kick Ass’ is a great picture and by far the best of this new wave of self-reverential graphic novel filmic adaptations.
‘Kick Ass’ is as up-to-date to modern youth as possible. In an era of hyperfast information dissemination, the film smartly plugs in technological tools, youtube, skype, twitter and other viral social networking outlets, to tell its origin story of superheroes in the modern world - superheroes who are acutely aware of what an ‘origin story is’. It’s perhaps the only film that has used these tools as organicly as it does (Although if anything, with the prevalence of MySpace and the absence of Facebook, likely due to an exclusive product placement deal, loses the film some credibility points).
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a typical high schooler, he masturbates a lot, is self-conscious and fearful of his place in the teenage social strata and, of course, he voraciously reads comics and watches hip ultraviolent movies. While he and his pop culturally-aware buddies natter on about geek cultural benchmarks like John Woo and Scott Pilgrim, Dave questions the plausibility of a real world omic book hero. And so, after getting mugged he dons a wet suit, assumes the name ‘Kick Ass’ and goes out into the world as his own personal vigilante of justice. After his first altercation with crime gets videotapeded on a cellphone and then youtubed for the world to see, he becomes an internet sensation.
Meanwhile there’s a real vigilante out on the streets fighting some more nefarious criminals – a former defrocked cop and his 11 year old daughter affectionately named Big Daddy(Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Morentz) who pack more firepower, street smarts and real hardcore violent tendencies than Kick Ass could ever dream of. When they discover they have a mutual enemy in local gangster thug Frank D’Amico (baddie du jour, Mark Strong), Kick Ass, Hit Girl and Big Daddy team up forming a legitimate crime fighting team.
The intensity of action, violence, and relentless teen-aged angst transformed into cursive bloodletting seems like a cathartic reaction to get everything right that Hollywood has ever gotten wrong in the world of comic-to-film adaptations. As if Vaughn is making up for all the griping of the fanboys of the world for the collective disappointment at say, ‘The Punisher’ or ‘The Watchmen’.
Kick Ass achieves what the “Watchmen” couldn’t seem to do - self-analyze the influence of comics as an influential form of storytelling for today’s youth. Vaughn’s influences range from the naughty depiction of Luc Besson’s violent child assassin in training character in ‘Leon/The Professional’ to the archetypal deconstruction of the genre in ‘Unbreakable’ to action-influenced bullet-porn of ‘The Matrix’.
'Kick Ass' succeeds not because of its genre due diligence but its core relationships and despite its clever self-awareness we’re never let the audience off the hook for an emotional and melodramatic attachment to its characters There’s a death in this film, which, amid mondo bullets, blood, slo-mo jumping, explosions etc, manages to hit us so deeply with great sadness, it’s the moment in the film when as an audience member, you realize you’re watching something truly memorable.