Monday, June 28, 2010

Kick-Ass Gently Nudges Ass

Apparently in this day and age everybody and his grandmother has a line of comics or a graphic novel, and every single goddamn one of them has also apparently been optioned for movie rights.  Because for some reason Hollywood is now categorically and methodically making every single last one of them into movies.  This is not necessarily a bad thing if: A) The source material is solid and B) The director has a clear and effective way to translate the source material from the page to the screen or C) I am too drunk or tired when watching the movie to notice any problems.  I'm kind of at a disadvantage because I never read any of the Kick-Ass comics so I'm not in the best position to judge the effectiveness of the translation to the big screen like I was say with WATCHMEN. 

Hey, look at me, I remembered the SPOILER ALERT this time!  The basic plot of KICK-ASS revolves around a high school kid named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who reads a lot of comic books and decides to pursue superheroing as an after-school hobby.  He promptly gets his ass kicked and then hit by a car.  Not one to be easily dissuaded, once Dave is released from the hospital months later after extensive surgery and several metal plates holding his bones together, he gives it another go.  This time Dave AKA Kick-Ass actually saves some dude from getting the smackdown laid on him.  Of course some douchebag with a cellphone decides that instead of helping or -say- calling the police he would tape the whole thing which of course gets posted to YouTube.  Kick-Ass becomes an overnight sensation sets up his own MySpace page to deal with the fans and any requests for his help.  On one of his "missions" he encounters another crime-fighting duo: Big Daddy AKA Damon Macready (Nicholas Cage) and Hit-Girl AKA Mindy Macready (Chloe Moretz) who save his life.  So Kick-Ass somehow gets mixed up with their vendetta against local mob boss Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) and eventually the proverbial shit hits the proverbial fan.  Many thugs are killed in horrible ways, Big Daddy meets a terrible end, Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked before eventually saving the day, blah, blah, blah. 

So just to be clear, I had never heard of Kick-Ass before news of the movie hit the interwebs.  Upon first hearing about it I couldn't give one let alone two shits, but all the fanboys out there really got me stoked for the movie and I found myself actually hopeful when I went to the theatre.  It was clear from the very beginning that this was not your average comic book movie and from the very start it was clear there would be this sort of darkly comedic element to the film, which was cool.  It started off really witty, and I found myself getting into the whole premise of the "real-life" superhero and what would or might "really" happen.  Then in the second two-thirds of the movie Matthew Vaughn seemed intent on systematically dismantling what could have been a solid story and alienating the audience. 

One of the big problems with the movie is consistency.  The story itself seemed kind of disjointed almost as if there were several story lines that were sort of being jammed together, you know kind of like garbage in the back of a dump truck.  There were several points in the movie where it seemed that a chapter or something was over and a new one was beginning but the transitions weren't handled well at all so it seemed choppy and disjointed.  Then there was the character of Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass, who was well established because a great deal of the movie was about him.  Then at the very end of the movie the character suddenly does a complete 180 completely negating everything that had been established about him for an hour and a half. 

What I'm talking about is the fact that although Kick-Ass is out there trying to help people, it's established early on that he doesn't want to kill anybody, and is in fact horrified when he first sees Hit-Girl brutally murder a bunch of thugs.  Then later in the movie he keeps trying to convince Hit-Girl not to kill anybody else.  It all makes sense, he's consistent.  But then at the end of the movie he is not only complicit in the deaths of several more hired goons, but he also suddenly starts killing them himself.  To me that just completely destroyed the integrity of the character.  It's not because I shy away from violence.  I fucking love me some violence in movies.  And by some I mean a lot.  The problem was there was no textual clue as to what would spark this sudden change of character.  The character arc got completely bent out of shape and mangled.  It really detracted from the movie for me because based on contextual evidence, there was absolutely no fucking motivation for this sudden shift.

Another big thing that really puzzled me also came at the end of the movie.  I mean the whole rest of the movie was supposed to have been grounded in "reality" insofar as that all the events and even the existence of "superheroes" (and I use that term lightly) were all highly more plausible than in other comic book movies.  I mean there were no radioactive spiders biting people or scantily clad women flying in invisible jets and tying people up with a magic lasso of truth.  Basically, it was just dudes with guns and swords and sticks shooting and slicing and beating each other and some of them happened to be wearing costumes.  But then after a whole movie's worth of the "realism" we get hit at the end with -wait for it- a jet pack.  A fucking jet pack.  Bam.  And not just a fully functional jet pack (that they fucking bought online from some yahoo on e-Bay), but a fully functional jet pack with two mini-guns mounted on it, which was then piloted with pinpoint accuracy by a high school kid with absolutely no aviation experience and not even a practice run beforehand.  For me it completely ruined the whole tone of the movie and just stretched my suspension of disbelief past the breaking point. 

Speaking of unrealistic the other thing that I just couldn't swallow was all the physical stuff that Hit-Girl could supposedly do.  I don't care if she was trained by Bruce Lee, drank the blood of Chuck Norris and had a training montage with Rocky Balboa, there is simply no way an eleven year old girl could match one -let alone a roomful- of adult men.  I mean I'm no Tony Jaa, but I'm pretty sure that if some little grade-five girl came up to me and wanted to start some shit I could -and would- totally stomp her into the ground.  I mean she's so short that even a pre-Subway Jared would be able to kick high enough to nail her in the face.  Drop her like a sack of bricks tied to that dead body I dropped into the river last week.  When she had a gun and was shooting motherfuckers like an adorable little Charles Bronsen, I could buy that.  It (unfortunately) doesn't take much to pull a trigger and shoot somebody in the head.  But a physical match-up?  No fucking way man.  It's a matter of skeletal-muscular strength and also physics where F=MA. (Look it up biatch.  It's a little thing I like to call motherfucking science.  Whatup Newton?!?!)  It's not that eleven year girls can't be tough, but they simply lack the physical strength or body mass to A) deal out the requisite damage to defeat the average adult male or B) withstand any serious amount of punishment that said adult male could dish out. A single straight shot to the head from D'Amico not only would have resulted in Hit-Girl being rendered completely incapacitated -if not totally unconscious- but it probably would have caved in the side of her head.

Since we're on the topic another thing that really bugged me was the character of Hit-Girl.  Now to be clear I am in no way shape or form squeamish about onscreen violence, and I have no qualms about little kids swearing and Cloe Moretz is a fantastic little actress.  I remember as I was watching the movie something just didn't quite sit well with me during Hit-Girl's scenes.  Then when I was discussing it with a buddy afterwards he hit the nail on the head and I realized why I was so disturbed.  Big Daddy had trained and indoctrinated his daughter Hit-Girl to not only kill, but also to show no remorse for the killing.  This is what would be considered sociopathic behaviour in the psychiatric world, and the most disturbing part is that her own father fostered those tendencies.  It is truly fucked up and left a weird taste in my mouth.  I suppose it was good that the film evoked some kind of emotional response.  But still.

I know after that little rampage it may sound like I totally hated the flick, but I actually found it quite entertaining.  It was just all the hype on the Internet and I found myself daring to believe, like when I heard that voice in my cornfield that made me build a baseball diamond except the voice turned out to be a tumour in the frontal lobe of my brain and then I was disappointed and hungry.  I really, really enjoyed Aaron Johnson in KICK-ASS's title role.  That kid gave a terrific performance and I would definitely like to see him in more stuff.  Judging from his performance I don't think Johnson is the same one-trick pony that say Michael Cera is.  As I said already the young Cloe Moretz did a bang-up job as well.  Nic Cage I could take or leave as usual.  The only really entertaining thing about that guy these days is the myriad of hairstyles he sports in any given week.  Mark Strong is apparently the go to bad guy in Hollywood these days, and I must say that he was definitely on his A-game this time around and I thought his performance here was a little better than his turns in SHERLOCK HOLMES and ROBIN HOOD.  There was an uninspired performance by McLovin (yeah, I know his real name, but if I wrote it down here admit it, you would have no fucking clue) as D'Amico's son and another superhero/villain called Red Mist.  Another honourable mention goes to Lyndsy Fonseca for being totally smokin' hot.  (And yes I double-checked her age on IMDB so it's all cool.) So close to seeing those tits and yet so far.


The plot wasn't a total bust either.  There was some good shit in there.  I loved the whole opening where Dave is talking about his place in the complex social heirarchy that is high school and how he wasn't a jock or a nerd or anything he was just there, which is something I (and probably a lot of you out there) can relate to.  The little masturbation thing was pretty clever too.  The interaction between Dave and his friends was pretty funny stuff and the subplot with Dave being recruited as Katie Deauxma's (Lyndsy Fonseca) "token gay friend" and him going along with it just to be with her.  There were some pretty emotional moments too like when Big Daddy gets burned alive right in front of his daughter.  Crazy shit.  Kick-Ass's costume was surprisingly cool, but the whole Big Daddy=Batman thing I wasn't a fan of.  Really, that's the best he could do?

Look bottom line: cool concept, poor execution.  I wondered about a few things in the plot so I did a quick wiki-search on the original source material and was surprised by what I found.  There were some drastic changes made in the movie adaptation and I have to wonder: why?  These changes -in my mind- were the main reason this movie was kept from being great.  One thing that stood out for me was the whole Big Daddy/Hit-Girl story line.  Something just never seemed quite right to me and I kept waiting for some kind of big twist or reveal because the whole cop-who-lost-his-wife-and-bent-on-revenge thing just seemed too shallow and hackneyed and straightforward. Then I found out why.  Apparently in the comic books the whole cop-who-lost-his-wife bullshit is just a line Big Daddy feeds his daughter to get her to go along with his revenge plan against Frank D'Amico (Johnny G in the comics).  Turns out the Daddy was just a fucking accountant with a midlife crisis who wanted his daughter to be special so he trains her to be a... psychopathic murderer.  They just picked this particular mobster on a whim because they needed some scum to kill.  See, to me that fits in more with the real-life pathetic vibe that was established with Kick-Ass himself.  Then there's the whole bullshit love story between Dave and Katie that doesn't have the same happy ending as the movie and it's really too bad the filmmakers took the cop-out Hollywood bullshit route instead of staying true to the integrity of the story.  From what I've seen Mark Millar's original comic series sounds a lot better than the movie and I'm going to check it out for sure.

Alright, I've gone on way too long as usual.  My recommendation is go and see it for yourself.  I enjoyed it on a visceral level, but it lacked too much in depth and coherence to make it anything more.  As a final note I also would not consider this a "superhero" movie because I don't know about you but when I think about superheroes, arbitrarily murdering people does not immediately pop to mind and in this movie all the "heroes" -Big Daddy, Hit-Girl and (in the end) Kick-Ass- are all decidedly unheroic.  I know it wasn't supposed to come off that way, but at times these costumed vigilantes seemed much worse than the villains they were fighting.

So in conclusion my rating for Kick-Ass is 5/10 = One Nerdy Teenager's Head in a Green Mask Getting Beaten With Baseball Bats. 


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