Kick Ass (15)
Every so often a film comes along that changes a genre, does something to subvert or improve the tried and tested. It needn’t be world class and it needn’t be flawless just directed or acted in such a way that the world call out “Bollocks, why didn’t I think of that”. This is such a movie. The comic book genre will never be the same again.
Why is Kick Ass such a movie you ask? Simply put it’s not afraid to take chances. It doesn’t pull any punches. When it wants to be excessively gory, it is. When it wants to be funny and innocent, it is. When it wants to have a small girl calling someone a c_nt and cutting their legs off, it damn well does. But it’s also not afraid to anchor all this comic book mayhem into a realistic place, where if a geek goes out into the real world pretending to be a superhero he gets beaten up, badly. The story and characters on display here are very strong and are acted superbly with just the right tone. All the characters seem full and fun, each bending to the (bordering on slapstick at times) comedy as well as the more serious, often grueling aspects.
The piece starts mildly paced in a typical Peter Parker fashion (one of many skilful nods) as we follow geeky kid Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson). He’s your standard high school zero, invisible to girls and into his comics. We delve into his life living with his widowed father, masturbating to his voluptuous teacher and visit the comic book store. There isn’t much going on so when he begins to wonder why real people never become superheroes it drives him to find out for himself. Donning an internet purchased wet suit costume he sets out to fight crime. It is here he finds his friends were more than a little prophetic when they answered his question “Because they’d get their ass kicked’.
It is this ability to abruptly but perfectly change the tone of a scene that proves to be one of the great successes of Kick Ass. The opening scene really starts the movie as it intends to go on (I wont spoil it) with the building up of a positive moment only to crush it back down to reality. I mean don’t get me wrong, this film is totally off the wall. The last time I saw a movie mix reality and fantasy to such successfully comic effect was probably Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but more so than that, it feels like it could just about be real. This is achieved mostly through the characters we meet on this crime fighting journey.
The best showcase of this are the two actual superheroes Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Big Daddy, played by Nicholas Cage is Batman, not to put it lightly. The suits is a perfect nod to The Dark Knight and those amongst us who remember the days where things were more innocent will instantly get that Cage’s dialogue is a largely not-so-subtle but perfect Adam West impression. His daughter Hit Girl is the real gem with a performance by Chloe Moretz that steals the show completely. The daddy/daughter combo are violent, funny, affecting and lovable. Hit Girl’s lines are infinitely quotable from beginning to end and you are completely in love with her by the time the credits roll. The relationship between her and her father is twisted but rooted in true and believable issues even when daddy dearest pulls out his gun, shoots her in the chest, then rewards her with ice cream for taking the round well.
As much Big Daddy & Hit Girl are the action injection for the film, we never lose sight of Dave. He is struggling to get through his teenage years like we all have, did & are and we really do root for him as his story progresses. He becomes entangled in something he never bargained for but finds the strength from within himself and those around him to fight back. Which when you’re on the hit list of one of the cities leading crime bosses (here played menacingly by Mark Strong) is no mean feat. In the background through we never forget Dave has a conventional life. In between his hero exploits he struggles to tell the girl of his dreams that he’s not gay, even though he’s allowed her to think so so they’ll be friends. You see his father and friends at just the right times to keep both his and your feet on the ground.
By the end, Kick Ass will leave you entirely amused, exhilarated, maybe slightly offended but thoroughly entertained. It’s genius lies not in being some Kurosawa-esque masterpiece, but in showing us that dark and brooding can also be wild and funny. It works on many levels, littered with in jokes and cultural digs but entrenched in laughs for all. Where the story might be slow, the characters are razor sharp. The movie will change how superhero movies are done from here on out as people look to match it’s tonal range. It succeeds where Spiderman failed balancing the responsible nature of its outrageous premise with the fun and cool factor of being a caped crusader. It didn’t need a huge budget or a blockade of global stars, just an enthusiastic cast, clearly enjoying what they are doing and spot on writing with an affection for the subject matter. I think Big Daddy sums up the serious nature of the fun to be had when he says, “Tool up, honey bunny. It’s time to get bad guys.”