Mark Miller and I have a torrid relationship. His comics are always focused on big ideas sprinkled with cynicism and lack any real humanity. This isn't exactly a bad thing, but it's not something I personally enjoy. However, when his book Wanted was adapted, I found it a genuinely fun movie. It wasn't a good flick in all fairness, but it was certainly enjoyable in its own little way. So when his more ambitious comic Kick-Ass was slated for an adaptation, with the intent of a hard R-rating, I was optimistic. So, how did the film adaptation turn out? Let us find out, as we take a look at..
Kick-Ass was released in 2010, with writing and directing duties being handled by Matthew Vaughn. It stars Aaron Johnson as the titular hero, with Chloe Grace Moretz, Nicholas Cage and Mark Strong providing backup. The story revolves around High-School student Dave Lizewski, who decides to take it upon himself to become a superhero and fight crime. With no superpowers, he quickly finds himself hospitalized after an attempt to take on two local thugs. Once recovered, he restarts his Kick-Ass persona and ends up a national celebrity, drawing attention to the local superheroes known as Hit Girl and Big Daddy, who use far more extreme and bloody methods to get their work done.
One of the great things about Kick-Ass is that, for a superhero flick, it works as a genuine thriller. There is a real semblance to the narrative, with events all gelling together in a very believable way. Set-pieces do not simply occur, they are all carefully implemented into the overall story. This is something I feel is a problem in most superhero movies. Even the Dark Knight felt more like an anarchic collection of action set-pieces than an actual narrative, although one could argue that was the point. Kick-Ass however, has a genuine flowing narrative that links everything together, with character motives intertwined into the action taking place on screen.
This isn't to say Kick-Ass is a 'serious' film. It certainly has many fun moments, and the whole film has a good amount of black comedy to keep the mood up. This works both for the film and against it. While some scenes are hilarious, sometimes the comedy detracts from the emotion of the scene. Specially, a certain section of the movie involving a live web broadcast lost some depth of tension and horror due to a line of dialogue muttered by Kick-Ass in voice-over narration. That scene still functioned fine however, and was certainly one of the most dramatic, weighty scenes I've seen all year, so much so that it made me cry. That's right, a scene in a supposed super-hero action-comedy made me cry.
Really, Kick-Ass isn't actually that much of a comedy film. At heart, it is a dark, emotional and violent as hell thriller, with elements of action and comedy sprinkled on top. Those who want to have a fun time will certainly get that, but there is a lot of emotion in the film, with some genuinely sad scenes that affected me quite deeply. This is where the subjective side of me comes into play, as it was something I really enjoyed. Those who simply want to switch their brain off and watch people kick-ass (sorry) in creative ways will get that, but they may feel interrupted by the more emotionally-charged scenes and exchanges.
Kick-Ass has a strong narrative with plenty of emotional punch to go along with it
These moments would be nothing without the characters however. While Kick-Ass is the titular character, the two most interesting are certainly the father and daughter team Big Daddy and the eleven year old Hit Girl, played by Nicholas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz respectively. They play two superheroes who have been working their way through crime-boss Frank D'Amico's army, mainly through the use of blades and fire power. Kick-Ass see's them as the 'real superheroes', and they really are. Hit-Girl is a genuinely exciting character who steals every scene she is in, being given real life and spark by the excellent Chloe Moretz. The rest of the acting in the film is excellent, but Moretz really shines out as the brightest light.
Although the acting is all of a high-quality, that doesn't mean every character is. Dave has a crush on his fellow student, Katie, who, while she isn't a bad or even underdeveloped character, certainly isn't very believable. She is essentially the epitome of a 'good' or even 'perfect' girl. Attractive, clever, caring and a volunteer at a needle exchange, she is completely flat compared to the rest of the flawed characters the movie presents us. With such a flat character, the relationship between her and Dave is not very sweet, and also seems to develop far too quickly and perfectly, with some very clichéd lines of dialogue that originate from the pair spoiling an otherwise tight script.
A much stronger relationship is the one shared between Hit Girl and Big Daddy. It is a very sweet relationship, with both characters being likeable despite their murderous ways. The action sequences in the film really kick off when these two are on screen, although they are never seen fighting together which is a shame. Hit Girl gets the majority of the screen time out of the pair and the Vaughn puts her to great use. All her action scenes are great fun to watch, with a wonderful John Murphy soundtrack orchestrating her every flip and gunshot.
While the action scenes are well-made and choreographed, they are let down by the sometimes distracting CGI blood spurts. The movie is very bloody, and as such the amount of CGI blood is high, and at times quite noticeable. A fight that takes place in a corridor has far too much of it, and while it doesn't spoil the overall fighting, it definitely takes away from the effect. This is a small complaint however, and the fight scenes and shoot-outs are overall spectacular with a scene involving a strobe light being the best fight scene I've seen in a long time.
The final fight scene is a let down however, seeming to ditch the more realistic and gritty aesthetic the movie had presented and instead choosing to bombast the audience by taking the action to a larger scale, which doesn't really work. The scene is still great fun to watch, but the final moment in particular spoils the tone of the movie slightly, being completely over the top, which is a complete contrast to the down-to-earth feel the movie had throughout beforehand.
Hit Girl supplies the movies best moments, both in the action scenes and in the more emotional scenes
This blend of action, great characters and a surprising amount of emotion is why Kick-Ass is such a great film. With some of my points I may of sounded a little harsh, but they were mostly nitpicks in an otherwise fantastic movie. Kick-Ass is something different, a bloody, fun, emotional and exciting flick that turns the superhero genre on its head and looks at it from a different perspective.
I recommend it to everyone who is a fan of thrillers, who is a fan of super-hero flicks and who is a fan of great, clever action set-pieces. Hell, I would even go as far as to recommend it to those who enjoy comedies, as I had more fun and laughed more at this then any other comedy I have seen this year. From the opening score to the final line, Kick-Ass had me smiling, laughing, crying and in disbelief in equal measure, and there is no other film I can truly say that about.