Unlike many of its superhero film brethren, Kick-Ass does not
take as its central figure the victim of a radioactive spider bite or
cosmic rays, nor a gloomy, misunderstood genius or the refugee of a
doomed alien world. Instead, it centers on a regular teenage guy with no
special powers. The result, under director Matthew Vaughn, is a film
with vim, much color and a distinct, streamlined personality, no doubt,
but also one whose punchy connection recalls the effects of a piece of
that paper-wrapped, nickel-priced bubble gum of yesteryear — an
ultra-sweet, sugary rush that fades quickly, and is apt to leave one
feeling a bit queasy.
Adapted from Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.’s comic book of the same
name, Kick-Ass centers on bespectacled comic book fanboy Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, above). A seemingly average teenage virgin, Dave is consumed with spank-bank fantasies of his teacher, and unsure of how to even approach any girls his own age. Sick of his crime-riddled hometown, in which bad guys seemingly get away with everything, Dave decides to become a real-life superhero. As would any good crimefighter, he works up a new identity (Kick-Ass), procures a suit and mask (in this case via mail-order), and starts training, keeping all of this secret from even his two best friends (Clarke Duke and Evan Peters).
When Kick-Ass first confronts some carjackers, he receives a massive beatdown — a humiliation that, owing to the fact that he is found without his clothes, somehow finally helps endear him to Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), on whom Dave has long had a crush. After recuperating, an undeterred Dave again sets out to fight crime, and when an amateur cell phone video of his exploits becomes a viral sensation, his life changes forever. As a subculture of even more bumbling copycats springs up around him, Dave manages his burgeoning Internet popularity but again gets himself in a tough situation. He’s rescued by a pair of crazed, costumed vigilantes — 11-year-old Mindy Macready, aka Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), and her mild-mannered ex-cop father, Damon, aka Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage), who has been training Mindy for a special revenge mission her entire life. Individually and collectively, their exploits draw the attention of criminal kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), and Frank’s attention-starved son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) eventually develops an alter ego, Red Mist, in order to forge an alliance with Kick-Ass and win his father’s approval.
While not the first film to aim for laughs alongside superhero hijinks, Kick-Ass may well be the most robust and indefatigably single-minded in its execution. Vaughn, working from a screenplay coauthored with his Stardust collaborator Jane Goldman, peppers his dialogue with snarky asides, but also leaves room around the movie’s edges for plenty of bewilderment and exasperation from its characters, which helps give Kick-Ass a convincing sense of organic pop. They may be doing outrageous things, but all of these characters occupy the same world. Occasionally, the film seems poised to break through and land some blows of grander cultural critique, but each time it backs away. Despite its novelty on a certain level, in significant ways it feels like it shares the main problem of many comic book film adaptations, or at least those not involving Christopher Nolan — of being overly beholden to the source material, where a surfeit of cool is always the prime directive.
Apart from its adrenalized packaging and some colorful production design by Russell De Rozario, what most helps Kick-Ass viscerally connect is its cast. As the protagonist, Dave can be neither one-note ineffectual nor all awakened machismo, and British-born Johnson nicely captures all the gangly, jumbled and frequently at-odds energy of his character and quest, which is all about putting the cart before the horse. Robbing the show, though, is Moretz. As written, the character of Hit Girl is a natural scene-stealer — a tiny, prepubescent girl dispatching burly henchmen with decapitating twirls. But Moretz, while skilled with a well-timed quip, also locates a bit of her character’s driving adolescent desire to please a parent, even though the material she is given in this vein is perfunctory. It is a flint of tangible human yearning, in a colorful movie driven — perhaps excessively and failingly so — by its own goading instinct to please.
In addition to single-disc versions, Kick-Ass comes to home video in a nice DVD/Blu-ray combo pack with an ample slate of bonus features. Exclusive to the Blu-ray version is an ass-kicking bonus view mode, which incorporates video and audio commentary, behind-the-scenes clips and illustrative graphics with Vaughn and other cast and crew members. A superlative making-of documentary delves into the movie’s Vancouver shoot, and there’s another featurette on the movie’s comic book origins. An archive of marketing materials, a scrollable art and photo gallery, a feature-length audio commentary track with Vaughn, trailers, and a digital copy of the feature film round out the supplemental material of this collection. On Blu-ray, the movie is presented in 1080P high definition 2.40:1
widescreen; audio comes in the form of 7.1 DTS-HD, with a French
language Dolby digital 5.1 mix as well. There are also optional English
and Spanish subtitles. To purchase the DVD/Blu-ray combo via Amazon, click here. B- (Movie) A- (Disc)