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Movie Review - 'Kick-Ass'


Starring Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, and Chloë Grace Moretz
Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Rated R

kickassposter.jpg When the studios recognized billions of dollars could be made by raiding comic books, most of the films that followed used the same blueprint: Throw $150 million at sets, effects, and big names, and line up merchandising deals. Some are great, most are average, but only a few are built around the experience of the audience.

Kick-Ass is ahead of the pack, probably because it doesn’t follow that formula. In fact, director Matthew Vaughn had to finance this movie outside the system because the studios all wanted to avoid a violent, profane R-rated comic book movie with kids killing bad guys left and right.

But a funny thing happened on the way to Comic-Con: Audiences saw footage from Kick-Ass last summer and couldn’t stop talking about it. The studios, which had so badly missed the mark by passing up the opportunity to make this movie, climbed over each other for the chance to distribute it. This is not the sort of superhero movie Hollywood makes, but hopefully it will be now. Kick-Ass doesn’t just happen on a screen in front of an audience, it deeply involves them.

Based on Mark Millar’s comic, Kick-Ass actually has no superheroes. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) asks his friends why nobody has ever tried to become one. Surely, some guy would’ve put on a cape and tried to save the day. The answer, as one of his friends puts it without looking up from an issue of Marvel’s Runaways, is “because they’d get their ass kicked.” But Dave has nothing else going for him, so why not? He buys a ridiculous-looking scuba suit, commits himself to helping the little guy…and proceeds to get his ass kicked.

Trying to ward off three heavies beating an unarmed man in a parking lot, Dave – having adopted his alter-ego, Kick-Ass – takes his fair share of punishment but just keeps fighting. A camera phone recording of his exploits becomes a viral video sensation, attracting the attention of Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his young daughter Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz).

As a cop, Macready had been set up by Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), one of New York’s most ruthless gangsters. After his release from prison, sensing he needs help to bring down D’Amico’s entire crime family, Macready trains his daughter to become the ultimate fighting machine. Lesson number one: How to take a bullet to the chest.

When he watches the Kick-Ass video, Macready not only sees a kindred spirit but he also gains a convenient way to attack D’Amico’s mob: If the mobster thinks it’s Kick-Ass killing his low-level thugs, Macready can operate without suspicion. Macready and his 11-year-old girl get costumes, too, becoming Big Daddy and Hit-Girl.

Dave narrates his story, telling us that his mother wasn’t murdered in a dark alley by the Joker, but instead died of an aneurysm. He wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider. His only superpower is willpower. And it’s this everyman approach that is so appealing about the story. But once Vaughn establishes his main characters, it’s really the director’s show.

Vaughn’s two previous films, Layer Cake and Stardust, have distinct visual styles and Stardust also has a warped sense of humor. But neither hints that something so special is just around the corner. Kick-Ass is being marketed as a kind of slacker action-comedy take on the superhero flick, and while it certainly contains those elements, Vaughn effortlessly, almost invisibly, adds layers of depth and heavy personal drama. In so many films, that sort of shift seems cloying and it’s usually hard to execute properly. Like Tarantino’s best work, Vaughn damns the consequences and goes for broke.

Each of the film’s fight scenes has its own energy and look, and one of them is just about heart-stopping. Unlike many examples is the bloated superhero genre, the action sequences aren’t the main course in Kick-Ass.It’s interesting that so little of the action takes place early in the film, but Vaughn builds up to the visceral pay-off through his characters. Once we’re on board with them, the real fun begins.

The star attraction in these scenes is clearly Hit-Girl, a butterfly knife-wielding, kitana-thrusting, pistol-packin’, foul-mouthed small fry in a purple wig. While Kick-Ass is not usually much good in a fight, Hit-Girl thinks nothing of chopping through goons in Italian suits like a Weedeater.

The key performances are uniformly strong. Aaron Johnson is a newcomer to American audiences, but he’s more than up to the challenge of putting most of the emotional weight of this film on his shoulders. Nic Cage clearly has a lot of fun as the nebbish Damon Macready, who takes on a different vibe under Big Daddy’s cowl. With memorable work in Rocknrolla, Sherlock Holmes, and Body of Lies, Mark Strong has already established himself as one of the best villains going, and his Frank D’Amico is another great addition to his rogue’s gallery. However, Chloë Moretz steals the spotlight from her co-stars as Hit-Girl. She’s one of those rare characters that makes going to the movies worthwhile.

As good as she is, the real highlight is director Matthew Vaughn, proving that he can make a more entertaining, fulfilling, and outright better superhero movie for under $30 million than Marvel and DC have for five times that much. It’s a movie nobody wanted to touch a year ago and now it’s a movie that ought to change the game.

Reader Comments (19)

I was expecting to like this movie because I am a geek, but I was absolutely blown away by the rich layers and depth of the characters and story. The tone of this film is spot-on from start to finish. Kudos to you for not being hesitant to give it your highest praise. Wonderfully analytical review.

Friday, April 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMRPigg

Wow! Five Apes Colin? I was thinking about waiting to see this one on DVD or atleast maybe catch it on a night when i was bored a few weeks from now. After getting a review like this from you i think i will catch it Monday and push back How to Train Your Dragon for one more week

Friday, April 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterHonz Brix

5 Damn Dirty Apes!! HOLY CRAP, I was already planning on seeing this one and your review might be the kick I need to venture out and see it on opening weekend. Hit-Girl is on the top of my list for Halloween costumes this year. Miss hearing your reviews on the radio, regardless of what station you were on, Colin.

Friday, April 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterFeisty

I'm in! Can't wait to see it

Friday, April 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterEmo



Are you f-ing serious Colin Boyd??????


See I knew it would be awesome & have been telling everyone to see it but IF YOU GIVE IT A BIG 5- APER, thats a whole nother story

My comments on it will come very soon

Friday, April 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSEAN

God, this was so worth the wait. I love the original come and this was absolutely amazing to see on the big screen. So much fun.

Friday, April 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAdam

5!?!?! omgomgomgogmomgogmomg. I feel like a 12 year old girl that just got tickets to a Justin Beiber concert.

Friday, April 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJeremy

yeah i just saw the movie and it was clearly one of the most enjoyable movies ive seen in a long time. sooooo freakin sweet.

Friday, April 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSeverian

Saw it last night!!!! I was not planning on seeing this movie, was just going to wait for DVD. But boy am I glad that I did. Thanks Colin for the solid review. This was a fun movie and I absolutely recommend it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrape Ape

Greatest Movie I've seen and never before a more accurate review. I'm okay with sounding like a homer or a crazy person who is taking it a bit too far.

Saturday, April 17, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKurl I saw it & it was the MOST FUN & THE GREATEST F-ING COMIC BOOK MOVIE EVERRRRR......
-yes up there with The Dark Knight, Iron Man, & very few others...

It was so fresh, the script was funny,witty, while also being action packed and having a romantic side as well. It was unbelievably well balanced in many genres.

The direction of the film was so crisp and kept moving forward. I NEVER KNEW WHAT WAS GOING TO COME NEXT!!!!!

This film was a big F.U. to all of Hollywood & to all of the other dam comic book movies....

I'm just blown away.... Acting was great, Aaron Johnson (great leading man quality), his too buds one being Clark Duke awesome, Mark Strong (never lets me down), Nic Cage (really stepped up, career is resurrecting I feel like), oh & the tiny fry Chloe Grace Moretz (unbelievable future!)

Matthew Vaughn really outdid himself, geez hopefully he can also move into other genres of film but what a fantastic job


COLIN spot on review, you consistency prove to me why I read your blog & inquire about your advice before seeing films I'm iffy about

Sunday, April 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSEAN

fricking awesome movie,hit girls a beast

Sunday, April 18, 2010 | Unregistered Commenternaired

the film is super. Ebert gave it only one star, but colin you punctuated superbly. everybody go see it

Saturday, April 24, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterdanuzi7

This movie was great from the get go and I especially am not a fan of Nicolas Cage but I do have to say this BEST DEATH SCENE EVER especially performed by Nicolas Cage

Tuesday, May 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterWAM

Hey, nice spoiler.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 | Registered CommenterGet The Big Picture

the best movie i have seen all year -it is brilliant

Sunday, May 23, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterpaul dixon

watched this last night, worth every ape... WOW...don't know how I felt about mclovin as the bad guy... too wimpy, not his character. Still an awesome movie, wish more people would watch this movie.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 | Unregistered Commentererinn

I saw the trailers for this movie and it peeked my interest for sure. I am some what of a movie buff, I love all types of movies and I will tell it like it is. If a movie sucks i'll let you know. However kick ass was hands down one of the greatest movies I have ever seen. It was absolutely brilliant. First of all the casting in this movie was superb I cant remember when if ever that I actually liked and or loved ever actor in a movie from the small time mobsters to the leading men and women. Chloe Moretz steals the show as hit-girl but every actor in this movie deserves a ton of credit. I've now seen this movie several times and it still doesnt take away from it. 5 stars or 10 out of 10 whatever you want to call it. Action, violence, comedy, love story and some tear jerking scenes as well its got it all ! Thanks.

Friday, June 25, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAlex Lee

5+ Apes man. This review is filled with truth, i mean, wow! Kick-Ass is much, much, MUCH better than many of the superhero movies i've seen over the past couple of years, hell, Iron Man 2 wasn't as awesome as this. When you say that Hollywood might be changing their pace to something like KA's, i can't help but cheer. We need something different from the usual overdone Marvel crap! :D

I walked in with no other expectations than that it was just gonna be another superhero movie, maybe a bit boring even. I came out yelling the oh-so common thought of anyone who's seen KA and loved it: "KICK-ASS KICKS ASS!!!!" Hit-Girl is, by far, the most EPIC superhero (because hero just isn't enough here) that i have EVER seen! I love Hulk, Daredevil and Iron Man, but HG just kicked them all thoroughly aside. Big Daddy was awesome, as was Kick-Ass's more sentimental scenes. The green condom is just not made for fights (at least not in the movies). And as for Red Mist, he's a bit of a wimp. I'm looking forward to see what he's gonna do in the sequel, because with this particular universe, you never know what's gonna jump out and fuck with your mind next. That movie had everything, without it being too much or too little, hell, i even love the fact that it is vulgar! Because that's exactly what Hollywood aren't usually doing and that's EXACTLY what i've been looking for in a movie! When i saw Kick-Ass the first time, i was still obsessing over Avatar, but even that movie couldn't compete with Kick-Ass's epicness. The apes are deserved, and my 11 year old brother and i can both reccomend this movie. GO SEE IT IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY!!! xD

Also, i can't wait for Balls To The Wall. I'm gonna be seeing that as soon as it comes out, so i hope it'll be as awesome as the first movie! <3

Monday, July 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMeWant!

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