27 March 2010

Bloody Fuckin' Yeaah.

As something of a regular disclaimer, it's only my opinion here- others are available. As ever, mild spoilers may occur in the process of reviewing, but never so far as to spoil any major plot developments.

Kick-Ass
begins with the musings of Dave Lizewski, a horny and unpopular high-school kid who has just one question- why has nobody ever tried to be a superhero before? It seems to him that everyone wants to help their fellow man, but without superpowers, few have the balls to actually do it. As you would, Dave goes and orders a scuba outfit and a luchadore mask off the Internet and becomes Kick-Ass. With the city of New York in the grip of an unscrupulous mobster called Frank D'Amico, Dave fails to realise that he's not the only hero on the scene, soon colluding with father and daughter crime-fighting duo Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. With no power, comes no responsibility.
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Holy shit. Just... wow. I'm calling it now, there will not be another film as entertaining, as brilliant or as downright demented as Kick-Ass this year. I'd be happy to be proven wrong there, because the only thing on my mind coming out of this was how soon I could see it again, and just one film like this is enough to make 2010 pretty fucking special. It's really that good.

This sets the bar high for all future comic book adaptations in more ways than one. Not only is it hard to think of one yet released that's as great, but it also closely mirrors the plot of Sam Raimi's Spider-Man, both mocking and celebrating the structure of that film. Its central mantra (see above) echoes the sombre one-liner delivered by Uncle Ben and there's a parallel with the relationship between the villain and the villain's son.

If the planned Spider-Man reboot (still a bad idea by the way) or any other superhero origin tale sticks to that same structure now, it will pale in comparison with this marvellous and loving parody of those conventions. No longer is it acceptable for Peter Parker to whup ass the very first time he dons red and blue tights, instead of ending up in hospital. Marc Webb has to nut up or shut up on that film, especially after Kick-Ass.

Of course, it's broader than that, also ribbing Superman and Batman in its nebbish representation of the monomyth. Aaron Johnson is terrific as Dave, instantly believable as a high-school pariah and yet you're also able to empathise with him right away. But just as his John Lennon was outshone in last year's Nowhere Boy, so is his title character outshone by Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz.

Yeah, I know, everyone's going to be talking about these two, but there's a fucking good reason for that. They're both incredible, as Big Daddy and Hit-Girl respectively, and I can't stress that enough. I've been saying for a while that Cage's niche is comedy rather than the professorial action roles he's been doing these last few years, and happily I was right. He's a hilariously violent and demented reincarnation of Adam West's Batman, clad in a costume reminiscent of Nolan's Batman.

And of course all of the controversy and hype have equally centred on Moritz. She sells the idea of an 11-year-old psychopath better than you'd ever imagine, and undercuts some of the poignancy around her character's lost childhood by just being so fucking hilarious. She's this year's equivalent of Heath Ledger's Joker- everyone who sees this will go ape-shit for Hit-Girl.

As for the rest of the cast, Mark Strong gives another reliable and villainous turn as D'Amico, while Christopher Mintz-Plasse might actually shake off the stigma of forever being McLovin' from Superbad with this performance as his son. It's fairly distinct from that more famous role, and he certainly holds his own amongst a flood of amazing comedy performances that might have well seen him sink the film instead. Really, he was one of the only things I was worried about when I went in, and he really surpassed all expectations.

You might have gathered that it lampoons comic movies, but there's a realistic undercurrent to all the admiring cartoonishness- in the world of Kick-Ass, you very much have to be rather unbalanced to go around fighting crime in a costume. Dave compares the enactment of his fantasies to being a serial killer at an early point in the film, and much of the central joke for the first hour or so is how outlandish the concept is- how ridiculous Dave looks walking down the street as Kick-Ass in broad daylight. You could never accuse the comedy of merely taking refuge in audacity though, because this is more or less laugh a minute for much of its running time.
When the joke starts to wear off with the idea of real-life superheroes, the emergent storyline picks up the slack. You care about Big Daddy's crusade, and about Dave pretending to be gay to impress the object of his affection, and about Chris' need for his father's approval. In this much, it's a totally immersive film. For instance, you might start out feeling bad for laughing at some of the more insane humour, but it draws you in with likable if not identifiable characters. And you'll stick with it even at its most outlandish.

A lot of people will claim that this glorifies violence, and that no one can really deny that it's not for the weak of stomach. To the latter, yeah, alright- go and see The Blind Side or something else if you're squeamish about that sort of thing. To the former, fuck no. If you think these characters are glamorous and come out of Kick-Ass wanting to be a superhero, seek help. It's sheer entertainment, and with a 15 certificate it's not really pushing the borders of decency anyway. And besides, the fight choreography and editing are really well done, so it's worth seeing for that too, amongst the nice choice of music, the performances, the cinematography, the gleeful deployment of the old Chekov's bazooka trope and... well, everything else about it.

I'll level with you, because if I'd have said this at the beginning, you might have listened and then not read a word I had to say. Critics and reviewers can't tell you about Kick-Ass. The Daily Mail will shit kittens and blame Jonathan Ross as they try to stir up a moral panic. Elsewhere, there might be some more positive rhetoric flying around like "Watchmen and Shoot 'Em Up in Quentin Tarantino's blender" or something like that. If that sells it to you, then fine.

But no, even if they like it, they can't tell you. Go and see this film. There's a pleasing sequel hook at the end that I would really love to see fulfilled if the cast and crew are capable of sustaining even half the level of awesomeness that this film keeps level for a whole two hours. I can only really sell it to you as two hours of sheer awesome, and hope to hell you go and see it. Thank me later. Bloody fuckin' yeaaah.

Kick-Ass is currently previewing in selected cinemas, and goes on wide release from April 2nd. So if you see it, and you bloody should, why not share your comments on the film and on my review below?

I'm Mark the mad prophet, and until next time, don't watch anything I wouldn't watch.

1 comment:

Luke said...

Hi Mad Prophet
Thanks for the link!
I am very VERY keen to see Kickass, it looks... kickass!