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Apr192010

KICK-ASS is violent, hilarious, bloody, and all kinds of awesome

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Is it violent? Sure. Is it morally reprehensible? Probably. Does it feature a young girl beating the hell out of people and getting beaten within an inch of her life? Yes. Will your girlfriend like it? This ain't The Notebook. Kick-Ass is hilarious and brutal. If you don't believe violent movies are ruining society (I, for one, think we'll be OK), it's also the best action/comedy since Zombieland.

Like Zombieland, Kick-Ass stars an awkward teenager who gets mixed up in an ever more violent situation. However, unlike Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg) from Zombieland, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) does not get caught up in the end of the world: he causes his own problems. Dave is kind of a nobody. He isn't a great athlete, and he isn't good at being a geek. Like most kids his age, he "simply exists," trying to make it through his days without hassle. 

Dave lives in a quiet New York neighborhood straight out of the pages of a Spider-Man comic. Like Peter Parker, he decides that the world needs a superhero. Unlike Peter Parker, he doesn't have super powers or fighting skills  to match his crime fighting fantasies. Still, he wonders, out of the millions of people who read comic books and watch superhero movies, why hasn't anyone bought some tights and tried to be one? Why do we all sit and watch bad happen and do nothing to stop it? A quick trip to the internet and 99 dollars later, Dave is a green/yellow Halloween wetsuit and two police batons closer to achieving his dream. Now he just needs to kick some ass, which is harder than the comics lead us to believe.

I'll try not to spoil much, but I will say that Dave learns the difficulties of being a hero quickly and painfully. He should have prepared more. And preparation is just what Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter Hit-Girl (the fantastic Chloe Moritz from 500 Days of Summer) are all about. Unlike Kick-Ass, these two are actually bad ass. They also have no qualms with murder. In one scene Big Daddy takes out an entire gang of thugs by himself. Hit-Girl, we learn, is the most lethal 11-year-old on the planet. 

Superheroes wouldn't exist without a supervillain. Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong) rises to the challenge. He runs a drug and crime syndicate that is in bed with the NY police. Frank goes unchallenged until some of his men start dying in alarming numbers, with survivors claiming that some guy who looks like Batman (that would be Big Daddy) took them down. Chris D'Amico (McLovin, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is Frank's disappointingly geeky son. He wants to take over the family business, but Dad doesn't trust him. He takes on his own alternate persona to change the old man's mind.

There are some who criticize Kick-Ass for its violent and profane content. I'd argue that most of them--save Roger Ebert--haven't seen the film. It is violent and profane. It's also rated R for those reasons. Kids shouldn't watch it. Still, it is no worse than recent films like Repo Men or Ninja Assassin, and its roots as a graphic novel are excessively apparent. MySpace is the 'cool' social network in Kick-Assthis fact alone sets the film in a fictional universe.

Director Matthew Vaughn, who's best known for his early work with Guy Ritchie and films like Layer Cake and Stardust, has made the best graphic novel adaptation yet. The film satirizes comics and action movies substantially, but doesn't rely on them for its funniest jokes and best moments. Vaughn does take a page from directors like Quentin Tarantino, heavily stylizing the action with great music and comedy, but doesn't mimic. 

I thoroughly enjoyed Kick-Ass. It's crazy good fun. I liked it so much that I saw it a second time. Like Zombieland, it proves that great films come in all genres. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

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