Friday, December 3, 2010

Kick-Ass - The movie with the perfect name

Want some shockingly R-rated action with capes and jet packs?
Tired of super hero movies that are safe for kids? Then director Matthew Vaughn's 2010 movie Kick-Ass will let you put the kids to bed so you can indulge in some top-shelf juvenile fantasy.

Kick-Ass uses the classic template of a teenage boy struggling with transition from boy to man. He feels powerless against neighborhood thugs, and wonders why no one stands up to them. His noble spirit ignites in a conflagration of frustrated teenage testosterone heroics. Dave crafts a super hero persona that consists of a wet suit, mask, two batons strapped across his back, a taser, and a sturdy pair of boots. His first foray into defending society puts him in the hospital in serious condition. He survives with nerve damage that provides him with an above average ability to take a good beating. Aside from his bravery, this is pretty much the extent of his super hero powers.

After recovering from his hospital stay, Dave becomes Kick-Ass again and his awesome street fight with a dangerous gang is recorded on a camera phone and Kick-Ass becomes an internet sensation.

Kick-Ass's rising star is noticed by a real superhero called Big Daddy, played by Nicholas Cage that star who works harder than a single mom with two jobs. Cage is of course wonderful because he always is, and his demented quest to defeat crime boss Frank D'Amico has driven him to become an exceedingly gifted high tech super hero. Big Daddy does not act alone. His tweenie daughter is Hit Girl, and she is his dependable and lethal side kick. Hit Girl kills people. She uses guns, swords, martial arts, you name it. She is a killer. Watching a child kill on screen shocked me, but I appreciated the daring of the filmmakers. Big Daddy has raised Hit Girl to be this way, and their relationship is creepily plausible. Ask any warlord in a third world hellhole, and he'll say children can be dependably manipulated into killers.

Big Daddy works tirelessly against criminal forces, and takes their money to finance his superhero lifestyle. His actions often interfere with the business of his enemy Frank D'Amico, who now blames Kick-Ass for his problems.

Dave immediately gets in way over his head, and is lured into a trap by the crime boss's son, Chris, who poses as a new super hero Red Mist. Played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse (of McLovin fame in Superbad), Red Mist easily tricks the guileless Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass is an enormously entertaining action movie with breathtaking gratuitous violence that is not too gory. The contrast between the pathetic incompetence of Kick-Ass, who Big Daddy likes to call "Ass-Kick," and the high-achiever expertise of Hit Girl is charming. The directing of Kick-Ass is high energy and cutting edge. A true pleasure to watch, melding graphic novel pizazz with cinematic artistry.

Kick-Ass serves most brilliantly as a satire of comic super heroes. The story integrates superbly with modern internet culture, something the successful Spider-Man films have failed to do. The character of Dave captures wonderfully the needs of teenage men as they seek to be competent, powerful, and most importantly get laid.

As always parody proves to be the highest art form. Kick-Ass is a slick and guilty pleasure made to satisfy adults and teens craving hard core action.