Tuesday, April 13, 2010

KICK-ASS – Colorful New Nihilism

But could KICK-ASS be an omen for what may be in store – by Nick van der Leek

I didn’t expect to like this flick. Despite IMDB’s score of 8.3/10, I thought this would be an ultra-violent, expletive ridden pot of pulpy rubbish. I thought Matthew Vaughan [who?] the British director probably bungled a sorry-sounding project that should never have been started.
The first surprise was seeing so many people from the press arrive to watch it. [Usually a good sign].
The second was hearing that this was based on the same comic writer - award-winning Scottish comic book writer Mark Millar - that created WANTED.

Now for the premise. Have you ever read a comic book and wondered why no one had ever tried to be a superhero? I have. But try taking that message and making a movie that flies. Does Vaughn win a Noddy badge then for his efforts?

No, he delivers seminal action sequences. Vaughan has complained that action flicks he has studied are boring, which emphasize kinetic camera movements, excessive zooming and cutting. Vaughan goes to the trouble of giving his fight sequences a geographic place which the camera portrays without cheating. He also insures a plot to the fight sequences, so that they don’t merely hang in the air, unrelated to the story. In this, perhaps more than any other element, Vaughan does really well. Those fight sequences pack a punch.

And oh yes, he delivers a solid story [plenty of meat oozing plenty of blood] and he does the one thing a director must do – he wins your heart. He also does something else. He throws a Tarantino at you. While you’re guffawing and jumping in your seat he throws a few eggs at you, or are those someone’s meaty heads that have been blasted to mush against the screen, and over your face?

KICK-ASS may seem to have flashes of ‘Watchmen’, and Besson’s ‘The Professional’ [remember we thought Natalie Portman was precocious then?], hints of ‘American Pie’ high school goofing around, and a touch of Tarantino. What saves this apparent mishmash, what gives it its credibility are its solid comic book roots.

It may seem confusing that the movie is called KICK-ASS when the show stealer is thirteen year old Chloe Moretz as Mindy MacCready [Hit Girl]. She hogs quite a lot of killing time. The reason may have something to do with Afro-sporting geek Dave Lizewski [Aaron Johnson] who struggles throughout to get his shit-together. If you’d like me to be more specific, let’s just as Dave spends a lot of the flick pretending to be homosexual in order to get closer to a girl he has the hots for – an aside that I found brilliant, funny and added unusual depth and irony to the story. See Dave’s identity crisis runs deeper than that – he wonders how to be significant in a world in which he feels invisible. The superhero story is essentially the anthropomorphizing of meaning. It is literally making oneself more meaningful, effective, and thus the world a more meaningful place.

The other aside, comes from an unexpected quarter: Nicolas Cage. Cage plays Mindy’s doting dad, Damon MacCready. His name, Damon, should say it all, but if that’s not enough, try his alter ego, Big Daddy. Let’s say he looks a bit like Batman but he doesn’t act like Batman. And it’s thanks to Daddy’s training that Mindy such a highly trained killing machine. Before I went to watch this flick I pulled up some memorable quotes off IMDB and found this:

Damon Macready: [from trailer] So... Have you thought a little more about what you might want for your birthday?
Mindy Macready: Can I get a puppy?
Damon Macready: You wanna get a dog?
Mindy Macready: Yeah, a cuddly fluffy one, and a Bratz movie-star make over Sasha!
Mindy Macready: I'm just fucking with you Daddy... I'd love a bench made model 42 butterfly knife!
Damon Macready: [relieved] Oh, child... You always knock me for a loop!

I don’t know about you, but that didn’t make me think this was a movie worth leaving the house for. The trailer serves similar expletive-laden trash. But don’t let it fool you. This is really an ok-flick. More than okay.

Expect some flack from parents for the cussing in this film. It’s hardcore, but not gratuitous, but expect a furore anyway. David Cox of The Guardian called Chloe’s bad language deplorable in that it could become “acceptable parlance for children in mainstream movies.” Which raises an interesting point for me: how come it’s patently unacceptable for society to see a young girl using bad language in public, yet her actions – which most certainly are exceedingly gratuitous – somehow seem unworthy of criticism?

There’s something disturbingly riveting about KICK-ASS. It’s perhaps in the third act that we begin to sniff a sinister turn to the story that actually reflects the terror that lurks in the real world. I think it starts to dawn on you when there is an on-video execution scene.

On a much darker theme, I felt a creeping sense of reality that this idea that seems so fanciful, of the masked vigilante, someone who might be someone’s kids, may become – thanks to worldwide economic contractions and the sweeping credit contagion – more commonplace than we’d like to imagine. Perhaps, in a few short years, or even months, as suburbia becomes overrun with beefy crime syndicates, individuals may have to emerge to stem a rising tide of violence. It is on this score that I think this flick scores its biggest hit. It may be coincidence, but it’s a home run nevertheless.

Score: 8.5/10


Ted said...

I think this movie sucked man, it especially sucked in comparison to the comic book. Yes it was ultra-violent, but it was boring and drawn out ultra-violence to no end. The comic book was great, it was a meditation on vigilantism alla taxi driver. Vaughn's adaption was crap. He didn't change much, but what he changed was lame as shit. He made big daddy a hero versus a pathetic right winger stuck in his own fantasy world. This one change undermined the whole film. Plus the ending was super long and he ruined the Red Mist as a villain reveal to just fill time. Bullshit movie. You are right, its abject nihilism, the sad thing is the comic was not.

Anonymous said...

Nihilism is the idea that no matter what you do, it doesn't matter in the end.

Kick-Ass movie version isn't nihilistic at all - Dave ends up improving his life

But Kick-Ass the comic seems more nihilistic to me. Despite his best efforts, Dave is still a loser. He's just now a loser in a newly-created fantasy world that he likes