Directed by: Matthew Vaughn
Premise: An average high school student (Aaron Johnson) who likes comic books decides to assume the identity of a superhero and spends his nights in costume, fighting crime. At the same time, a father and daughter (Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moertz) take on a local crime lord.
What Works: Kick-Ass is a lot of fun to watch. The film is funny and irreverent, deflating the sense of self-importance that often hurts a lot of these films. Kick-Ass is split into two narrative plot lines, which eventually merge together pretty smoothly. The primary storyline of high school student Dave Lizewski and his superhero identity as Kick-Ass is done with a fair amount of credibility as it follows the character’s trials and failures. Although it plays up the ridiculousness of it and falls prey to some romantic clichés, there is also some underlying themes of living a life of significance and meaning that are well intended and cut a little deeper than expected. Similarly, the subplot of crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and his son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), although indulging a lot of gangster posturing, has some thematic weight to it as the son begins to incorporate himself into the family business. The other major plot line of Kick-Ass occurs between a father and daughter who also fight crime as vigilantes but are dead serious in their approach and professional in their execution. Nicolas Cage gives one of his (intentionally) funniest performances in years in this movie and his character’s relationship with his daughter, played by Chloe Moertz, also gives this film some emotional reality. Kick-Ass is extremely violent and bloody but the violence of the father and daughter is often offset by humor and ironic music choices, giving the action scenes the same sense of ridiculousness as a Road Runner cartoon.
What Doesn’t: Kick-Ass is hurt by a lack of commitment to some of the themes of its story and style. The film begins as some kind of metatext about comic books and superheroes but it does not go all the way with it and never completes its point about heroism or vigilantism. The film also goes awry at moments when it suspends the more realistic approach for a more traditional shoot ‘em up action style.
Bottom Line: Although Kick-Ass does not reach the heights of The Dark Knight or Iron Man, it is better than a great deal of other, more high profile comic book films including Superman Returns and Watchmen and it’s worth a look by action and superhero aficionados.
Episode: #285 (April 25, 2010)