Comic books, superheros in silly suits, victorious nerds and spiffy oneliners. On paper, Kick-Ass wasn't going to be my kind of movie and so I kindly waited for the hype to blow over. I ignored all reviews and comments as to enter the film without too much prejudice. Turns out all the bad stuff is nothing a touch of sprawling directorial efforts couldn't fix. Welcome back Matthew Vaughn, I missed you!
After producing the early Guy Ritchie hits, Matthew Vaughn stormed the scene with his own Brit-crime comedy Layer Cake. A pretty cool flick sporting a somewhat surprising reference to Avalon (earning it a special place in my list of favorites). Vaughn took a wrong turn with Stardust (although that film did give us Robert deNiro in a pink tutu - classic!), with Kick-Ass he returns to the craft of high-quality, stylized and brainless fun-cinema.
Judd Apatow, Michael Cera and to a lesser extent Jesse Eisenberg, they all played their part in reviving the victorious film nerd. In Kick-Ass Aaron Johnson continues this fine tradition. The first hour sees Johnson parading around as a loser in a green wet suit, posing as a superhero. Without wanting to spoil too much, you can pretty much guess how it goes from there. Not that I have anything against film nerds, but the formula is getting a little stale by now.
Luckily there is more. Upgrading the film are Nicholas Cage and the Hit Girl character. With their introduction comes a fair amount of dry comedy and flashy action. It makes for a nice diversion, completely revitalizing the film after the halfway point. Vaughn handles himself pretty well in the action scenes, taking it nicely over-the-top. And even though a lot of the action was cut on the editing floor, he manages to keep the flow of the fights intact. A rarity in Hollywood.
The story is simple enough. Nerd is into comic books, buys a wet suit, gets his ass kicked but comes out of the accident with dulled nerve endings. Add a crime organization and a little side story involving the background of Hit Girl and Big Daddy and you have enough material to fill 120 minutes of film. Finish off with a touch of self-aware humor and you're good to go.
Visually there is plenty to enjoy here. Vaughn demonstrates his talent for style, relying mostly on strong camera work rather than flashy visual effects. Some scenes even seem to suggest the budget was not as big as the hype would have you believe, maybe that's exactly why it turned out so well. Good use of color, snappy yet controlled editing and a pleasant visual pace. The soundtrack mostly consists of existing tracks, but used with a fair share of winking and nudging. It adds to the light atmosphere running throughout the film.
Performances are pretty good overall too. Johnson is pleasantly non-irritating as Kick-ass, his friends a pretty funny bunch of sidekicks. Cage is perfect as Big Daddy though he doesn't need to do much besides rehashing his old routine. There's only one big problem here which is Chloe Moretz as Hit Girl. Granted, it's a difficult role for a young girl to play, but she completely fucks up her oneliners and she's simply too uncontrolled during the action sequences.
It's a shame Vaughn couldn't land a better actress for his Hit Girl. A splendid character which brings the film alive as she cuts, hacks and shoots her way through her adversaries. All that cool is countered by the lacking performance though. What remains is still good fun, but there's a big wide black hole of missed potential gaping whenever she surfaces. Still, I'm sure she is the reason Kick-Ass will be remembered over time.
Kick-Ass is damn good fun. Nothing more, as it loses itself in its comic book world of comedy, action and self-awareness. It's a comic-like look at one of the biggest comic book genres out there. In that it differs from Hancock or other superhero parodies, while still keeping very close in atmosphere to these films . Biggest star of the film remains Vaughn though. It's his efforts that make the film worthwhile, creeping away from the Hollywood aesthetics and inserting it with some good old-fashioned British spark.
Even if you don't like superheroes, even if you don't like the nerdy overtones, hell, even if you don't give a damn about the whole setup, Kick-Ass is still a pretty cool film. As long as you don't mind a little over-the-top action and a good dose of style over substance there is plenty to enjoy here. One of the best films to come out of Hollywood in a long time.