Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kick-Ass (2010) ****

It’s a good question, really. With all the fans of superhero comics out there, why doesn’t anyone ever put on a costume and go out to fight crime? This is the question posed by Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), the quiet high-school student who is the protagonist of “Kick-Ass.” Sick of being preyed on by local thugs, Dave buys a colorful diving suit, a mask, and a nightstick, then proceeds to get his ass handed to him by a couple of hoodlums and a hit-and-run driver. This would discourage most people, but Dave is motivated by something that I think many of us have felt: He is sick of seeing assholes prey on the weak while everyone else turns away. He heals his wounds, puts the costume back on, and manages to bumble into a situation where he actually helps someone.

The instant celebrity of the “superhero” known as Kick-Ass inspires the populace, even though Dave has no “powers” and doesn’t even have any athletic talent or fighting skills. His only edge is that his original injuries leave him with some nerve damage that supposedly makes him impervious to most pain. Other than that, he’s just a fed-up citizen with a nightstick. His activities do, however, bring him to the attention of a pair of more capable, if less likely, masked vigilantes. The mentally unbalanced Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) wears a Batman costume and takes his 11-year-old daughter Mindy, also known as Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) along on his crime-fighting missions. Both are ridiculously bad ass experts in gung-fu, gun-fu, and everything in between, and they have no qualms about killing criminals. The pair have a grudge against a mafia boss, and Kick-Ass/Dave winds up in the middle of it.

Most action movies, and definitely most comic book movies, try to get a PG-13 rating to maximize their access to the teen audience. Not “Kick-Ass.” Between her foul mouth and her penchant for bloodshed, Hit Girl earns this film an R all by herself. Chloe Moritz is actually pretty awesome, and it will be interesting to see how she turns out as an actress. Nic Cage chews the scenery admirably in a movie that is actually suited to his bizarre talent. Aaron Johnson didn’t blow me away or anything, but he does alright in the title role.

Through a combination of sincerity and audacity, “Kick-Ass” manages to overcome its formulaic plot and genuinely entertain. I like that the movie doesn’t apologize for glorifying vigilante justice. A lot of good people would like to do exactly what Dave, Big Daddy, and Hit Girl do. I dig that this movie doesn’t do the standard, hypocritical, Hollywood thing of profiting from displays of violence, then throwing in a public service announcement about how violence is never the answer. (Batman, anyone?) You know what? Sometimes violence IS the answer. Yeah, I understand the dangers of vigilantism, but sometimes I want to watch a movie where a decent citizen who isn’t a cop or a soldier kicks the bad guys’ asses. “Kick-Ass” is that movie.

4 stars

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Childhood sometimes does pay a second visit to man; youth never.