Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Who Wants Their Ass Kicked?!

I wonder if any guys out there would like to admit that once in a while, we'll fantasize about being that fantastic superhero with powers that can make us demigods, emerge victorious over the bad guys and get the girl in the end to walk toward the sunset. Kick-Ass plays on that fantasy where we imagine a what-if scenario leaping straight out of a comic book, and except for Batman/Bruce Wayne with a world-class accountant, everybody else seemed to require one to be born an alien, or be physiologically affected by anything ranging from spiders to lightning bolts.

But Kick-Ass itself is based on an ongoing comic book series by Mark Miller and illustrated by John Romita Jr, so one can expect plenty of references both explicitly made and indirectly so, which to comic book fans will be quite the thrill to discover the easter eggs peppered within. Director Matthew Vaughn has a knack for adapting works based on literary sources, from his first feature film Layer Cake, to Neil Gaiman's Stardust, both of which I have enjoyed tremendously, and he makes it three in a row with Kick-Ass, which clearly doesn't apologize for the way it handles on profanity and on-screen violence, which I must admit is brilliantly choreographed and designed, and sets itself a mile apart from the trend of quick cuts and shaky cams.

What makes this film stand out besides its plot which has maintained its essence from the comic book narrative, is how the characters got introduced and developed for this roller coaster ride. There are enough ups and downs as we follow the protagonist Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson), who decides to take on the vigilante superhero persona because besides being fodder for bullies, he feels that it's time someone in the big city had the balls to stand up for the little man, with mask and some special ability of course, which in a way he obtains through the school of hard knocks for imbeciles, the first incident which indicates just how straight Vaughn will play the film out without unnecessary, cliche bullshit, which will raise some eyebrows at first, before you realize and be thankful that cliches are going to be out of the window.

For all his shortcomings, Dave serves up enough pathos almost equivalent of a cooler Peter Parker, sharing similar concerns and pangs as a schooling and growing teenager, only without the input of a radioactive spider. It's true when you put on a uniform that it can compel you to turn into someone else, and watching Dave stumble through that, with his taser and Eskrima sticks, you can't help but to feel for his character, and to eventually root for him to achieve something other than Youtube/Myspace glory.

Then there's the "real deal" heroes in the film, led by Nicolas Cage in a Batman lookalike costume. We know Cage had lost out on his opportunity to play Superman, so his Big Daddy isn't that bad after all, in what I thought was one of his fun, contemporary characters to date, especially when there's a really poignant backstory fleshed out through superb comic book panels, and tells of why he's so dogged in his pursuit to bring down the villainous drug dealer Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). McLovin' Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist also departs from his usual pigeon-holed typecast and gets primed to showcase a lot more despite his limited screen time, so it's quite nice to see him step out of his comfort zone, and step up to the plate.

The one who clearly stole the thunder from everyone though, is Chloe Moretz's role as Hit-Girl, the uber-violent, take no prisoners vigilante with a foul mouth to go along with her martial arts skills. Raised under exceptional circumstances, she's a would-be assassin from day one, and owns just about every action sequence that she gets to flex her muscles in. There hasn't been a child character that had exuded so much caution thrown to the wind, and that's what makes her role refreshing (some parents will frown upon naturally), especially when her alter-ego is a cute, innocent looking schoolgirl who is obviously more than meets the eye, and one that comes with a glint of mischief as well. She's the biggest ass-kicker in the film, and she rocks big time, with the best lines, and the best moves. A definite favourite who has the potential to seal this film into cult fandom, the Fannings and the Breslins of the world better sit up and take note!

To say anything more of the story will be to give it away, but suffice to say it also dealt with the modern day apathy, and obsession with popularity, online hits and virtual friends, where you find no-one lifting a finger to help a fellow man in need, but plenty of those standing around the sidelines recording everything for a youtube upload. It's almost anti-superhero in a way with its take on copycat wannabes who get into an awful lot of needless trouble, and deglamorizes or even shatters whatever notion that we earthly mortals will have about powers, to confine it within our dreams. It takes on the what-ifs, and plays it out in almost realistic terms on the kind of trouble we would expect, with threats obviously made to loved ones should secret identities be exposed, and that we'd really be psychopaths of sorts if we were to don a costume and start fighting crime in it, like the characters here who are living our fantasies, on screen.

Fused with great comedic timing and a rocking contemporary soundtack, my verdict of this film is that this Kick-Ass kicks ass aplenty! Oh, there's a Singapore connection in the film as well, so keep your eyes peeled when the end credits are rolling. I'm quite confident this film will have a placing in my shortlist for the best of the year when the dust settles. Highly recommended, don't miss this, and yeah, the M18 rating means this film gets released here uncut, so kudos to the distributors for not opting to dumb down the level of violence and profanity, which will butcher the film badly, and rob it of a layer of Kick-Ass-ness!

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