Monday, 22 March 2010

PCCP reviews Kick-Ass, comes off second best

Comic-book film adaptation shark-jump update: initial suspicions were that Watchmen would be the moment when normal people, the ones who don't give a shit who Jack Kirby is, stopped paying good money to sit in a cinema and watch blokes with a keen eye for colour-coordinated tight-fitting outfits getting physical with each other.

It's all a bit irrelevant now, as Kick-Ass is about to make every superhero film that follows it redundant. Based on the mini-series by the ridiculously talented British writer Mark Millar and industry legend John Romita Jr, Kick-Ass finishes the job Watchmen started and dismantles the genre by applying the superhero cliches to the real world to see how they stand up. On one level, Kick-Ass is deconstructivist evaluation of an art form that has struggled to come to terms with its own identity, but more importantly, it's a traffic-stopping, highly savvy claret-soaked action-comedy tear-up, and unquestionably the most fun you will have all year - unless you happen to end up at your local Odeon getting tromboned by the entire Brazilian beach volleyball team after having set loose a gang of howler monkeys in the Daily Mail offices.

After wondering why everybody wants to be Paris Hilton and nobody wants to be Spider-Man, high-school no-mark Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) decides to mask up as Kick-Ass and take on bad guys - armed only with good intentions and a geek's knowledge of comics. Despite getting his ass handed to him in the worst way while on his first foray, Dave persists and finds fame after a clip of him taking on some thugs winds up on YouTube. Being a viral sensastion leads to a kind of noble glory, so he sets up a Kick-Ass MySpace page to help people in need, including Katie, the girl he has such a crush on that he's willing to pretend he's gay just to get close to her.

But his exploits also put him in cahoots with fellow masked avengers Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz), whose brand of ultra-violence lets Dave know that he's in well over his head. Drawn into their battle with local crime boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), Dave discovers what he's really let himself in for - and that he needs to seriously man up if he really wants to do this for a living.

Anyone who's seen the trailers already knows why Kick-Ass is point-blank essential viewing: Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl. Obviously, sizeable tittering comes from seeing an 11-year-old schoolgirl dropping F- and C-bombs, but the truth is SHE IS UNQUESTIONABLY INCREDIBLY GOOD IN THIS, which bodes well for anyone fearing the Hollywood remake of Let The Right One In, as she's been cast as a lead in that. The wee sod truly owns this movie; as well as nailing it as an Early Learning Centre death-dealer, she also never loses sight of the naive innocence of her character, ultimately as fragile as much as she is a brutal fucker. In fact, virtually the whole of the young cast are impressive - Aaron Johnson has the perfect Peter Parker bland everyman charm, while Clark Duke will probably be able to get any role that Jonah Hill turns down after his effortless turn as Dave's smart-arse mate Marty. Fan favourite Christopher Mintz-Plasse is in too as D'Amico's son and bandwagon jumper Red Mist, but his presence feels more of a marketplace signifier, rounding up the Superbad demogrpahic.

What's slightly confusing is that the performances of the experienced cast members jars against this lot. Both Nicolas Cage, channeling Adam West as Big Daddy, and Mark Strong as crime boss D'Amico are both too mannered and over the top in comparison - it's like they've popped in from a lesser film to see how the kids are getting on. It's this sense of disconnection that is the basis of Kick-Ass' major flaw. It has plenty of neat points to make, from redirecting the apathetic nature of modern society, with its facile social networking and meme culture, to breaking down the observational character errors of superheroes - Dave wants to be a superhero to be cool as much as to be heroic. But it trades it off against some overly broad passages that drag it down in places - D'Amico and his goons are just cartoon cliches, while the films excessive nature veers slightly into self-parody at moments in the later stages, when a key aspect of Millar's comics was that, unlike Spider-Man or Watchmen, all this could feasibly happen.

But that's just me being a picky sod just to look smart. Kick-Ass is a ceaseless riot of smart ideas, snappy dialogue, wanton bloodshed and potty-mouthed ridiculousness that starts awesome, gets awesomer and ends awesomest.


  1. I've only seen the posters - not the trailers and assumed it was some sort of Disaster Movie style spoofery. You've sold it to me, I'll be checking the trailers..

    Have you checked out this blog could be your sorta thing.

  2. I thought Nicolas Cage & Mark Strong were brilliant in this. Its Cage's best film for many years.
    (I loved the 3D-ish cartoon section)

  3. I think Cage had a load of fun with this. His Adam West scthick is a fucking hoot. Maybe it was more the mafia element of the script that meant that Strong had to turn in that kind of performance.

    I'd actually forgotten about the animated section, been a wee while since I saw it. Nice bit of Romita Jr, that...

  4. not for years have i been gagging to see a film as much as i have this one.

    Have the comics, and they are a absolute joy...

    My ony worries are this:

    1. N Cage... sorry, the guys a tool, and has never been any good in any film i've seen. He is so far away from the character in the comic, I just cant believe he could pull it off.

    2. The comic is great, but to be honest, there's not THAT much of a story... not sure how you fill up 90mins of movie.

    Still cant wait tho!


  5. "by the ridiculously talented British writer Mark Millar" -- sorry, I stopped reading after that.

  6. Piley: Cage works better when he's a bit left of centre and a bit odd, which he is here. You'll love his Adam West. There's a lot that differs from the comic, but it stays in tune with the originals. In terms of filling out 90 minutes, it's all about the tone - it's just keeps it balls-out lively.

    Anon: ta for dropping by. Apols if the use of hyperbole put you off, but I do feel Millar is pretty talented - he has Grant Morrison's flair for strong ideas but with a solid, accessible style that means his stuff can work on a Vertigo level and a fanboy level.