Paul Tassi and I usually agree on most movies, so after reading his review of Kick-Ass, I went in with rather low expectations. I’m really not sure what it was about Kick-Ass that rubbed Paul the wrong way – from his review, it seems to be just about everything – but not only did I think Kick-Ass was great, I think it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen in 2010. It’s not the type of movie that will get nominated for an Oscar – nor am I suggested that it should be – but Kick-Ass, from beginning to end, was simply FUN. Remember when movies could be fun?
Anyway, instead of writing a standard review – which Paul has already done – I figured I’d spend this time responding to his review, as well as adding anything he didn’t mention. Spoilers to follow.
While Kick-Ass tells the story of a high school kid named Dave who dreams of becoming a super hero and, despite not being particularly big or strong or even resourceful, pursues this dream. It’s not because his parents were killed by criminals or any similar type of comic book cliche; it’s simply because he’s a good kid who doesn’t like bad people. It also doesn’t hurt that nobody’s ever really tried it before and so, hey, why not try and be a pioneer. However, this isn’t the type of superhero deconstruction or grounding we’ve seen in Watchmen or Batman Begins – and significantly, the movie never tries to do that. It’s a fun, ultraviolent comedy with some drama sprinkled in, and precisely the type of movie that should be immune to nitpicking. Why? Because when one of your main characters is an 11-year-old girl with a potty mouth and the ability to eviscerate bad guys like a velociraptor in a cattle ranch, logic and reason sort of go out the window. If you’re cool with that premise, then Kick-Ass is for you.
One of Paul’s complaints about Kick-Ass is that it didn’t fully explore the real world consequences of Hit Girl’s upbringing; my response is that the premise of hit girl is so absurd to begin with that to address her upbringing as anything that could happen in this world would be counterproductive and detract from the film itself. It’d be like discussing whether or not the grading system at Hogwarts is scaled in such a way so as to give young wizards an advantage when applying to colleges. Simply put, Kick-Ass isn’t the type of movie that offers a message with regard to violence in our society and amongst youth, but that was never the point anyway.
Paul also criticized Kick-Ass for focusing too much on Dave himself and his high school relationships, going so far as to argue that Dave’s relationship with Katie is meaningless and unnecessary. I’m all for mindless violence, but if an audience is going to relate to the protagonist in a movie, that protagonist has to go through some sort of arc – even if the movie is as ridiculous as Kick-Ass. At the beginning of the film, Dave is barely capable of looking Katie in the eye, let alone speaking to her. After becoming Kick-Ass, though, he’s gained confidence and a sense of self worth, so even though Katie thinks he’s gay for a majority of the movie, when it’s finally time to make his move, Dave’s able to do so. Had he never fought crime (and gotten his ass kicked) as Kick-Ass, it’s highly unlikely Dave would have changed enough to muster up the courage to get with Katie.
As far as Dave’s relationship with his friends, unlike Paul, I found most of their banter highly entertaining and humorous, and when they spoke, it felt like a bunch of high school kids siting around and chilling, not high school-aged actors reciting lines from a script. No, dirty words and violence are not funny in and of themselves, but I also don’t think Kick-Ass was relying on either for the sake of some cheap laughs. The dialogue felt crisp and fresh – especially amongst Dave and his friends – and you’d be hard pressed to find people who didn’t laugh at lines like, “That’s a weird-sounding bazooka” and, after Dave and Katie leave to have sex under the guise of seeing a movie, “I guess we weren’t invited.” That’s not violence, and it’s not dirty words. It’s well-written, clever dialogue.
I suppose I should mention Nic Cage, as well, who’s become mostly a running punchline at this stage in his career. But that’s because he overacts in roles that are meant to be taken somewhat seriously or in unwatchable dreck. When Cage is in a movie that’s as energetic and silly as he is, though – like the very underrated Honeymoon in Vegas – he really shines, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that he kicks ass in, uh, Kick-Ass. His Adam West impression had me rolling.
Finally, Paul argues that Kick-Ass fails to depict what a superhero would be like in “real life.” If I haven’t made it perfectly clear above – and I think I have – this was never the intention of Kick-Ass. Rather, the intention was to present an original narrative that could both wow its audiences with insane action all while never taking itself too seriously. In that regard, Kick-Ass was wildly successful. I’m usually not a fan of “turning my mind off” and just being entertained, and if you’re a reader of this site, you know that I usually prefer the artsy-fartsy (as my friends call them) films as opposed to the mainstreamed, fun, action-adventure types…but I haven’t had this much fun with a movie since From Dusk Till Dawn. Make of that what you will.
4.5 out of 5 stars