Friday, 19 July 2013

Review: Kick-Ass

When a genre becomes popular enough, filmmakers can use filmgoers' familiarity with it to make successful postmodern takes on it. Scream did it with horror, Unforgiven and Butch Cassidy did it with the western. Kick-Ass (2010, trailer) sets out to do the same with the cash-vortex that is the comic-book movie.

Dave Lizewski, (Aaron Taylor-Johnson, née Johnson) a high-school student, says that his only super-power is 'being invisible to girls' - despite being rather good-looking for a self-confessed geek.

Get lost, four-eyes! NEEERD!!

Kick-Ass's world is similar to our world, in that super-powers only exist in fiction. Despite this, Dave wants to try being a real-life super hero himself: 'I always wondered why nobody did it before me. I mean, all those comic books, movies, TV shows; you'd think that one eccentric loner would have made himself a costume.'

Dave buys what looks like a green gimp-suit, puts on a pair of Marigolds, arms himself with a couple of heavy sticks, and goes out on patrol as 'Kick-Ass'.

My Take

Soon after this, Kick-Ass betrays its own premise completely. Kick-Ass gets cornered by criminals while on an investigation. Suddenly, Hit-Girl, (Chloë Grace-Moretz) a purple-costumed eleven-year old wielding knives and spears, appears and graphically murders all the bad guys.

Wait, I'm confused. Isn't this movie supposed to be based in real life? How exactly is a back-flipping, villain-butchering pre-teen supposed to be real? This movie tries to have its cake and eat it too by precisely enacting the genre it is purportedly making fun of.

Case in point: after Hit-Girl saves Dave, Big Daddy, (Nicolas Cage) another murdering psychopath dressed in a Batman-style outfit, tells him:

'You know we're around if you need us.'

'How do I get a hold of you?' Dave asks.

Hit-Girl replies: 'You just contact the mayor's office. He has a special signal he shines in the sky. It's in the shape of a giant cock.' They then jump out of the window and disappear into the night. How this massive irony went past the filmmakers unnoticed is beyond me.

The major problem I have with this movie is how jarring the oscillating 'real' and the 'super-real' are.

On Dave's very first patrol, he sees a couple of hoodlums trying to break into a car. When they refuse to stand down, he starts to fight them. The fight ends when Dave is knifed right in the gut. Soaked in blood and delirious with pain, he stumbles into the street, where a car hits him. Damn.

I guess you can go one of two emotional paths when watching this scene (and the movie as a whole): either the 'real' route, where  you are horrified and depressed by the wanton injury, pain and killing; or the 'super-real', where you dispassionately observe it all from a distance, marvel at the Tarantino-esque geysers of blood, and laugh.

At the hospital, Dave has steel rods implanted into his broken bones. You'd think he'd be traumatized beyond belief by both his injuries and this surgery, but instead he looks at his X-ray and exclaims: 'This is awesome! I look like fricking Wolverine!'


The movie lost my respect here, and never got it back. Why are we expected to still root for this maniac? As Dave's friends say: 'Super's like being stronger than everybody and flying and shit. That's just hero...No, it's not even hero. It's just fucking psycho.'

I even took issue with the music. Featured on the soundtrack are a mock-Ennio Morricone tune and the orchestral arrangements 'In the House - In a Heartbeat' and 'Adagio in D minor' by film composer John Murphy.

Both of these aren't just minor background tracks; they are the instantly-recognizable, front-and-center themes from Murphy's 28 Days Later and Sunshine scores. Rather than draw me into Kick-Ass, as filmic music ought to, this instead distracted me into thinking about which better movies I could be watching instead.

Kick-Ass derives its comedic moments from more nasty pain and death. The movie opens with Dave's voiceover where he wonders about how come nobody's ever tried being a real-life super hero. The accompanying visual is a guy in an extravagant red outfit, complete with wings, perched on top of a tall building. He spreads the wings and leaps off.

He then plummets down dozens of storeys and smashes into a parked car, dying instantly. Dave's voiceover says: 'That's not me, by the way. That's some Armenian guy with a history of mental health problems.' Ha ha!

I don't think I'd mind the violence so much if the movie wasn't predicated on this being the real world. I'm not too bothered by violence in something like The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, because it clearly exists in a fantasy reality from the very beginning. Kick-Ass asks me to both ground it in reality and accept its extreme brutality, and I found this impossible to do.

Later, we see Dave at the breakfast table with his parents. Suddenly, Dave's mom collapses in her chair and cracks her head onto the table. 'My mother was killed by an aneurysm in the kitchen', says the voiceover.

I can tell that both of these moments are supposed to play as comedy because both of the characters are never referred to again - presumably to distract us from the 'real', and instead get us to see these scenes as if they are live-action Wile E. Coyote cartoons. Except they are not cartoons. Neither of these people can just dust themselves off and continue living.

After Dave's mother dies, there is a cut to another breakfast scene. The remaining family members sit with deadpan expressions, and the table laid out in exactly the same way as in the aneurysm shot. Dave's dad looks at the cartoon mascot on a cereal box and nonchalantly asks: 'Did they change the bee's face?'

Ha ha!

Is this supposed to be cool and hilarious? Is 'not caring' the new caring? At the age of twenty-one, am I already too square for a movie targeted at my own demographic?

The answer is probably yes: the release of Kick-Ass was met with sometimes orgasmic applause, and the movie made its budget back three times over.

Kick-Ass's success has given rise to Kick-Ass 2, which is set to be released in this year's summer blockbuster block. I obviously have no intention of seeing it, but I have leafed through the movie's tie-in comic book and discovered that one scene involves children being gunned down, and another features rape.

Screengrabs: Kick-Ass was produced by Marv Films and Plan B. The UK DVD was distributed by Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.
© Nicholas Gonzalez Brown and 'NickGBrown On Films', 2012-14. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog's author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Nicholas Gonzalez Brown and NickGBrown On Films with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

1 comment:

  1. What a dick head who reveiwed it lol, gives no credit where it should be given. Obviously hated the film and tried as hard as possible to give reasons to back that up...