28 March 2010

Movie Review: Kick-Ass


2010, 117mins, 15
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writer (s): Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Mark Millar (novel)
Cast includes: Aaron Johnson, Mark Strong, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lyndsy Fonseca
UK Release Date: 26th March 2010

“Kick-Ass” is a special motion picture. A frantic and joyfully compiled superhero romp, “Kick-Ass” is a blockbusting knockout from start to finish. Adapted from the comics by Mark Millar (the same man behind 2008’s overrated “Wanted”) “Kick-Ass” provides superb action, excellent performances, funny comic relief and an unapologetically adult sensibility. Having never read the source material, it’s hard to say if the film is a faithful translation, but I can confirm it’s the most fun I’ve had in a theatre for a considerable number of months. For my money it’s the best film of 2010 thus far.

David Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a typical geeky teenage boy. He spends his time reading comic books, fantasizing about the opposite sex and hanging out with his equally awkward best friends. However David dreams of becoming a superhero and despite his lack of motives or special powers he proceeds to cultivate a crime fighting alter ego called Kick-Ass. After videos of his rookie vigilantism go viral, Kick-Ass becomes a pop culture sensation and David finds his superhero persona turning into a minor celebrity. This draws the attention of local mobster Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), who sets his sights on killing the teenage pretender. However with the help of real superheroes Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his deadly daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), David might be able to stay alive and dish out justice in the process.

“Kick-Ass” is directed by Matthew Vaughn, the man behind 2007’s frothy fantasy adventure “Stardust”. That film was enjoyable but lacked the punch to make it truly memorable; the same cannot be said of “Kick-Ass”. Vaughn directs with a kinetic and visceral touch, pumping every scene with glossy visual polish and a deep respect for the story he’s telling. “Kick-Ass” is a gorgeous looking film but the flash never upstages the brilliant screenplay; which offers a terrific set of characters and a gripping plotline. The film is first and foremost a thrilling action picture, but it retains a focus and emotional sincerity that that allows for the audience to connect with it on a more heightened level. Adding to the film’s excellence is an underlying intelligence and desire to make comment on modern day internet celebrity.

Aaron Johnson is a marvellous and totally likable leading man. The actor possesses a raw charm and emotional depth which helps overcome the inherent silliness of the film’s premise. David’s actions seem justified on the back of Johnson’s acutely measured performance; the actor showing an aptitude for both comedy and scenes of a more serious and intimate nature. A romantic angle with love interest Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) packs an added dose of humanity onto the film’s already meaty frame. Mark Strong is a capable villain and Christopher Mintz-Plasse does commendable work as his equally dastardly son. Mintz-Plasse captures a conflicted spirit whilst also mining broader comedic moments with skill, leading to a surprisingly well crafted piece of acting from the man once known as McLovin. Nicolas Cage is dependably quirky as the vengeful Big Daddy and he forms a touching father/daughter bond with young Chloe Moretz. Hit Girl is the most inspired character in “Kick-Ass”; a pop culture icon if I’ve ever seen one. Moretz handles her bloodthirsty action sequences brilliantly, but subtly provides chinks of vulnerability in her character’s otherwise steely personality. It’s these sorts of nuanced touches that make “Kick-Ass” such a fantastic feature and probably the best superhero flick since “The Dark Knight”.

At 117 minutes “Kick-Ass” isn’t a short movie, but it uses its running time wisely. The film is a nicely balanced concoction of multiple ingredients. Teenage angst, amusing jokes, bombastic action and heartfelt relationships are all blended wonderfully together. The movie is riddled with highly quotable dialogue and an entertaining eye for profanity. “Kick-Ass” is a film for adults; it’s gory, violent and occasionally vulgar. Those expecting a standard superhero parody are going to be caught massively off guard; this is a hugely original and thoughtful property in its own right. Those who like to be intellectually challenged as they chew their popcorn will revel in the movie’s probing examination of internet fame, and its ability to define both the pros and cons associated with celebrity in the technological era.

The special effects are seamless; allowing the action to ramp up into a delightful frenzy. Vaughn showcases a healthy dose of filmmaking creativity and stacks every scene of combat or superhero heroism with oodles of adrenaline. “Kick-Ass” is one of the best action films of recent times, and through its enthusiasm and conviction the project is just as enticing as something like “Avatar”. The soundtrack is another deft and riotous touch; gifting the ears just as much pleasure as the supreme cinematography offers the eyes.

“Kick-Ass” is a masterpiece of multiplex cinema. The film combines the traditional cravings of action junkies and comedy addicts, whilst keeping an individualistic tone and identity on the grounds of its relentless ambition and ingenuity. The film has a consistent heart and soul amidst the action spectacle; meaning that the conclusion provides both a potent emotional pay off and a dose of cracking physical carnage. “Kick-Ass” is an astounding achievement and is truly a film that cinema lovers need to see.

A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2010


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