Review: Kick-Ass

by Tom Ingram

I was warned that Kick-Ass would be a horrifically violent movie. It is, in fact, the only movie I’ve ever been to where I’ve seen someone carded to make sure they were over 14. Even Watchmen didn’t have the high security around the theatre that this movie did. I don’t know anything about Mark Millar’s original comic. I’m not well-versed in comic lore, having read only Denny O’Neil’s run on The Question and a smattering of Batman comics. So going in, I had no idea what to look for. I was actually slightly slanted against it because I haven’t heard very many good things about Mark Millar.

The movie was a little bit slow to start, but just a few minutes in, I was sold. The story of Dave Lizewski, the teenage comic book geek who decides on a lark to become a superhero, is interesting, but it pales in comparison to the much stronger storyline with Hitgirl and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage in his best ever role). Hitgirl is an eleven-year-old girl trained by her father to be a Punisher-style superhero. She kills and curses with the best of them, never losing her adorable little girl charm, and her father seems to be a genuinely nice guy if you overlook the fact that he brutally murders criminals. Child abuse has never been so hilarious.

Anyway, Lizewski’s career as the superhero Kick-Ass gets off to a rocky start, when some thugs beat the shit out of him and stab him in the stomach, and he then gets hit by a car as he staggers around. Luckily for him, this causes severe nerve damage, increasing his pain threshold and allowing him to jump back into the crime-fighting scene as soon as he’s out of the hospital. He gets in trouble with some dangerous people, including a local mob boss, Frank D’Amico, but he also earns the tentative respect of Hitgirl and Big Daddy, who offer to help him.

Frank D’Amico’s son Chris comes up with a devious plan to catch Kick-Ass: pose as a new superhero, Red Mist, and gain Kick-Ass’s trust before stabbing him in the back. The first setup doesn’t work, because Big Daddy gets there first, murders everybody, and burns the place down, but the second time the mobsters manage to shoot Hitgirl and capture Big Daddy and Kick-Ass.

Some of the most amazingly-choreographed action scenes I’ve ever watched ensue. The first half of this movie is kind of fun and at times great, but this is the point where shit gets real. I don’t want to give too much away, but suffice to say that Hitgirl and Kick-Ass resolve things in one of the most awesome ways possible.

Now, as for the accusations of gratuitous violence, I have to say they’re justified. The amount of violence is comparable to, say, District 9. However, much of D9’s violence was squirm-inducing and painful to watch (which suited the movie’s serious tone). Kick-Ass has violence that’s so over-the-top it starts to be funny. Think Team Fortress 2. There’s only really one scene where the violence is a bit disturbing–the scene where the mobsters torture Kick-Ass and Big Daddy. The language is also, shall we say, strong. Don’t bring the kids along unless you want them to call each other greedy cocksuckers all the way home. I extend the same warning toward this that I did toward D9: don’t bring young children to it or I’ll personally hunt you down and kill you. On the other hand, anyone 13 and up who’s reasonably mature should be able to handle it. In my neck of the woods it’s rated 18A, which means 14-17 year-olds have to be accompanied by an adult, and anyone 13 and under isn’t allowed in. I think that’s fair.

In all, Kick-Ass was a funny, exciting, and technically astounding movie well worth the price of admission. I haven’t heard good things about Wanted, but Mark Millar has gone up a few notches in my esteem.

The trailers before this movie were The Losers (again), Macgruber, Killers, The Expendables, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. Killers looked like a standard horrifically bad Ashton Kutcher comedy, and The Expendables looked boring. I don’t care that it stars several classic action heroes. If the trailer for a movie like that can’t hold my interest, I can’t imagine the movie itself being any good. Scott Pilgrim is the latest Michael Cera shitfest. I hate that guy.

Macgruber is a difficult case. The trailer was split 50/50 between genuinely funny bits and awful shock comedy, and I’m not sure which will be predominant in the actual movie. This is one I’m tentatively looking out for, but if it comes out and the overwhelming conclusion is that it’s terrible, then I’m not going.

I also saw some promotional interviews for Gunless and The Trotsky, both Canadian movies. Gunlessis a Western comedy starring Paul Gross, and The Trotsky is about a movie about a kid who thinks he’s the reincarnation of Leon Trotsky. Both of them are worth a second look, but I need to see more to know for sure if they’re good or not.