Kick-Ass (Lionsgate) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Aaron Johnson and Chloe Moretz star as Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass.


Studio: Lionsgate
Directed by Matthew Vaughn; Starring: Aaron Johnson, Nicholas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Chloe Moretz

Apr 15, 2010 Web Exclusive
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The only thing Kick-Ass the movie has in common with Kick-Ass the comic book is the premise: New York high-schooler Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a nobody to everyone around him except for his two best friends (played by Clark Duke and Evan Peters) and his father. Lizewski’s a Hollywood version of a nerd: an otherwise well-adjusted, good-looking kid who spends all his time ingesting pop-culture in massive quantities-particularly comic books-and because of this will have a hard time getting any respect from his peers or a date with the hot girl he has a crush on (Lyndsy Fonseca). After he and his buddies are mugged one too many times by a couple of neighborhood hoods, Lizewski takes up the mantle and MySpace page of an amateur vigilante. As Kick-Ass, he saves a man from being beaten, and the good deed goes viral thanks to some bystanders with cell phone cameras.

In the comic, the story is established a bit more naturally, with Lizewski developing the Kick-Ass persona around his unexpected Internet fame, rather than in anticipation of it. In both cases he attracts the attention of other people who already had the same idea, are better funded, and as a result better equipped to take the law into their own hands. Enter Big Daddy and Hit Girl-played by Nicholas Cage and 13-year old Chloe Moritz-a father-daughter team who run around in pesudo-Batman and Robin attire, talking shit and hacking up bad guys.

Despite minor differences in character and plot between the two iterations, it’s really the spirit of each that sets them apart. Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.‘s comic miniseries illustrates the superhero cliché in a realistic, ultraviolent fashion, spattered with gobs of blood and guts, while Layer Cake director Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation (co-plotted with Stardust screenwriter Jane Goldman) is a goofy, cartoonish, pop-culture parody-which is probably for the best. Hollywood has been toying with the comic book meta-flick genre (Special and Defendor), and until now, a good one had yet to come along. (Up next: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.) Kick-Ass seems custom-tailored for a transition to the big screen, and the translation works for the most part.

Moretz’s turn as a foul-mouthed, prepubescent murderer has nothing on Linda Blair. The actress does a great job making Hit-Girl feel like a real character, but the violence she doles out is so over the top and unrealistic-one entire scene is staged like a level of Modern Warfare-that it doesn’t register on any gut level. It’s fun, for sure-between all the wisecracking and attempting to outdo John Woo’s entire filmography, there’s no room for anything but enjoyment.

Action-wise, Cage’s Officer Damon Macready/Big Daddy packs the brute force and visceral punch of the comics. Out of the cowl, he’s a golly-gee-wiz Mayberry pop whose life revolves around his little girl, even when he’s pumping .22 bullet rounds into her chest (don’t worry, she’s wearing bulletproof armor). As Big Daddy he’s a bad-ass, Adam West-talking, shotgun-wielding angel of death. He’s a blast to watch, and here’s to hoping 2010 marks the beginning of an era where Nicholas Cage is the best thing about every movie he’s in.

Superbad alum Christopher Mintz-Plasse almost steals the show as Chris, the dopey, eager-to-please son of tough, hard-to-please New York crime boss Frank D’Amico, played with Scorsesean villainy by Mark Strong. Chris attempts to prove his worth as the traitorous Red Mist, a hilarious riff on Joel Shumacher’s idea of what a caped crusader should be, complete with a loud costume and a dumb muscle car that actually sprays mist.

What makes Kick-Ass so entertaining (and simultaneously kneecaps it) is that it keys into all the modern clichés that the audience is familiar with, with references to other films (characters quote Taxi Driver and Scarface), comic books (too many to count), television (Lost, Craig Ferguson), video games (re: Hit Girl), and the Internet (MySpace, YouTube). Nearly every character in the film is obsessed with popular culture and technology, and Vaughn hangs every thread in the plot on that hook. It works like a charm in 2010, where the culture and the technology on display is still familiar, but in a few years, who knows if anybody but musicians are going to be on MySpace? Or Facebook, for that matter? YouTube already looks completely different now than it does in the movie. After being captured by D’Amico’s henchmen, Lizewski wonders if he’ll ever get to see the end of Lost. It’s funny now, because none of us know, but in a few months it might not be something worth thinking about in our final moments. That’s the problem with being so cutting edge: It doesn’t take long to bleed out. (

Author rating: 8/10

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