Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Adapted from the graphic novel. Released 2010. Rated R.
Honor, Courage, Maturity, Idealism, Love, and the importance of Fatherhood: these are the unspoken key-words in of Kick-Ass. Another list of its contents might be gratuitous Stylized Violence, an abundance of Teen Sex, a contradictory Disregard for Life, and a lot of Heart. Or laughs. I probably laughed more. Yeah, definitely a laughing movie.
And, Oh! The things we laughed at! I’ve been entertained, or awed, by senseless violence before, Watchmen and any number of Tarantino movies come to mind, but to say I’ve been delighted by violence before—well, that’s just something I haven’t said until now. I was disturbed to be delighted by a thirteen year old girl playing an eleven year old and killing mobsters in the most gangster-ninja ways I’ve ever seen. I’m also a little disturbed to have to mention my infatuation with the youngest actresses in two reviews in a month. American directors must be learning something from the Chinese Olympic coaches, and I’m all for it.
Actually, I’m a little torn. The first list of Kick-Ass’ virtues carry out the best themes of the movie, but the follow-ups on each are less than clear. Let’s review--
Kick-Ass is the story of high-school student nobody, Dave Lizewski, in the mean streets of New York, tackling crime as a homemade superhero. Acting on principles born of comic books, he inspires the city via YouTube and Myspace. This makes him the most up to date hero yet. Of course, things get out of hand. It’s a movie after all. Hilariously, his alter-ego includes confusion on sexual orientation, but that should be the least of his worries as the mobsters he faces get badder and badder.
What we have to deal with is the psychological cost of all of these choices. Is it worth it to be inspiring and effective if it also means to be as ruthless as the bad guys? This question is barely addressed by the characters, but it stares the audience in the face more than once. You’d think a movie based on comic book morals would address this age-old question. Maybe that’s why it didn’t, but it felt like the movie transitioned from a story about courage to simply a story about power. We never question the characters with power; we are simply impressed by it. Even the bad guys have enough charming moments that we only root for the good guys because they seem to care more about each other.
Now, the movie does briefly give a reason for why it abandons its high ideals. Without revealing too much, our hero discovers something that is more valuable to him than simply following his dreams. It’s a bold message and an interesting one in a genre that mostly values naïve idealism and dream-following supremely. However, Kick-Ass only mentions it in passing and is swallowed up in more questionable themes.
All in all, it was a very fun movie to watch. If it wasn’t for the unnecessary sexuality that could’ve been replaced with more superhero fun, and the moral basis it abandoned, I’d give it 4 stars. As is, it’s probably just a 2.5. But we don’t need to look at it as a movie that loses points for being shallow; we can look at it as a movie that murders its way to our hearts.
The 'R' is well deserved, so don't bring your kids. That is so obnoxious.