Movie Review: Kick-Ass (2010)

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Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl and Mark Strong in Kick-Ass
Photo: Lionsgate

The reason to see Kick-Ass is to see Chloe Moretz as the mature beyond her years, trained killer Hit Girl. The reason to call it Kick-Ass, and center it around the film’s title character, is to give audiences a human connection to the story, even if it is a paper thin character that offers very little to the overall proceedings. In fact, I’d be open to watching an edited version of the film only featuring the scenes involving Hit Girl as everything else is down time until the 11-year-old Moretz is back on screen taunting villains with foul language, her double edged-blade and an arsenal of firearms. It’s a character I won’t soon forget, but a movie I just might.

Based on the John S. Romita Jr. and Mark Millar comic, Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an average teen who up and decides he’s going to be a superhero. He will wear a green leotard, wield a pair of Kendo sticks and go by the name Kick-Ass. It’s a recipe for disaster and the real life implications of becoming a bonafide superhero are all explored, tirelessly in fact. Kick-Ass becomes an Internet sensation all while primarily getting his ass kicked, a joke that lands solid from Nicolas Cage, in a role more suited for his talent, or lack thereof.

The film’s villain is Frank D’Amico, something of a mob boss played by Mark Strong, a solid actor who repeatedly appears to be taking on roles that hardly offer a challenge – this is one of those roles – but he brings something to it that makes it work. As Frank’s goons begin getting knocked off, his gaze turns toward the growing popularity of Kick-Ass, which would seem to seal the wannabe’s fate. Luckily, this real life, fantasy-world vigilante gets some help from the father-daughter duo going by the names Big Daddy (Cage) and Hit Girl (Moretz).

Cage applying eye-liner and firing loaded weapons at his little girl in training are absurdly comedic and he’s just the man for the job. You can’t help but want more, more, more. The introduction of Big Daddy and Hit Girl is the film’s saving grace, without them this would have only proven to be just a notch higher than last year’s similarly themed debacle, Watchmen. With Hit Girl and Big Daddy this film has character and excitement, even if a lot of what their selling goes against the film’s selling of real world superheroes.

Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass is quite good, but his character is simply uninteresting beyond his introduction. In fact, his friends played by Evan Peters and Clark Duke (Hot Tub Time Machine) are more interesting. Duke especially continues to bring a whimsical “whatever man” performance to his characters that I find extremely funny.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays D’Amico’s son, posing as Red Mist and delivering the same performance he did in Superbad and Role Models, making his character seem tired, unimportant and not at all funny. To be honest, the guy has worn out his stay.

After serving as producer for Guy Ritchie’s films, director and co-writer Matthew Vaughn made his directorial debut with Layer Cake in 2004 and with Kick-Ass serving as only his third film he’s a proven talent. Without him, I feel this film would have done a 60-floor-high nosedive. Vaughn knew what this story needed to remain entertaining. The action sequences serve as a cinematic defibrillator to a story that frequently begins to fade. Hit Girl’s violent introduction and a later strobe-light affected shoot-out are the film’s two biggest highlights. They are certainly what most audiences will come out remembering and will likely inspire repeat viewings. She’s addicting for sure and if the rest of the film was as good I would be slathering hyperbole all over this digital page to get you to see it.

However, some folks are targeting Hit Girl as offensive. Whether it’s her language or the violence she brings and receives. I didn’t have a problem with this. In fact the violence is far tamer than many have been lead to believe. And after all, it’s a comic book movie, and an 11-year-old doling out pain and contributing to the mayhem is rarefied blast. Instead, I’m more curious about the reason for this film to exist as presented.

Kick-Ass’s inability to actually “kick ass” makes me question the moral of the entire story. Dave Lizewski wants to become a superhero because he’s tired of being picked on and tired of seeing people stand back and watch as others are assaulted. He wants to help, but he’s obviously not equipped with the wherewithal to pull it off. Is the moral of this story to say he never should have tried? Or is it trying to say it’s better to try and fail than to have never tried at all? The morality of the whole thing is a mess. I think it’s best to look at it and say, “Hey idiot! Superheroes aren’t real and you sure as hell can’t be one!” Which is fine with me, I just want to watch Hit Girl slice some more bad guys up anyway. I’d prefer to forget about the film’s inability to decide if it wants to be a real world morality tale or a fantasy world bloodbath, because its indecision to be one or the other is a storytelling flaw to be sure.

Nevertheless, while not a perfect movie, I had a lot of fun with it, which is really all it’s meant for. So go see Kick-Ass and have a good time. Maybe even see it twice or three times. I wouldn’t blame you, but I think if most people are honest with themselves they’ll admit they are returning for one reason and one reason alone… While the movie needs to be called Kick-Ass, the reason you are watching it is to see Hit Girl.

GRADE: B-