Directed by Matthew Vaughn
Starring Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong
Screenplay by Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman based on the book by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse has had the grave misfortune of hitting the ball out of the park in his first at-bat. Same thing happened to Haley Joel Osment, although I think he may have had a movie or two before “The Sixth Sense.” I know Rudy the
Rabbit had a career before Meatballs, but you don’t see him anywhere now. Being typecast is a hard thing for regular slobs like me to identify with because working our 40-60 hours a week makes all that fame and potential for wealth seem less like suffering and more like a lucky break. Thing is, beyond the name. McLovin, Mintz-Plasse is an excellent actor. That he has been in a string of good to great movies since Superbad that have all been hits (Role Models, How To Train Your Dragon, and even Marmaduke) except one (Year One) shows that he either has great instincts or a great agent.
For the reviewer, one of the unique pleasures of watching Kick-Ass was seeing Mintz-Plasse develop from the kid in the back of the car waiting for Dad to take him to a movie to the man behind the desk. It is a hard thing to be a convincing bad guy while waiting for your wisdom teeth, and Mintz-Plasse pulls it off with aplomb. His transformation represents the best things about Kick-Ass, it is grounded, realistic and somewhat unpredictable.
“That’s not me, by the way,” says Aaron Johnson, as Dave / Kick-Ass about a super hero wannabe who is grounded at the start of the film, “That’s just some Armenian guy with a history of mental illness.”
Dave is pretty much your average geek that you’d see in high school. He is not bullied, not even picked on, but definitely invisible to the girls. He is noticed by the English teacher, whose top he stares down during class, but he’s too embarrassed to see that. After getting ripped off in front of the comic book store, he notices that the whole thing was viewed by an apartment dweller. Wondering if he’d have done anything different, he decides, eventually, that he needs to give it a shot.
Thinking it requires not super powers, but the “perfect combination of optimism and naïvety,” he buys a green yellow scuba suit online and decides to give it a shot. After his first attempt brings realistic results, he comes back more capable than ever…of receiving an ass beating. This allows him the luck of outlasting 3 guys beating on an unsavory guy in front of a donut shop. Several cell phone cameras on the scene makes him a hero on You-Tube, and thus, fame he is obviously not equipped for.
In the midst of finding out the limits of his abilities, he comes across a disgraced former policeman and his daughter, who have done some real crime fighting. The girl, played by Chloe Grace Moretz, is the object of much controversy in the language she used in the movie, if not so much the violence she inflicts upon the bad guys. The latter was the most shocking for me. I would love to assume that a lot of this would have been added in post production, but Moretz’ Hit Girl has some of the most shocking hand to hand combat scenes I have ever seen. The beat down she inflicts is like nothing I have ever seen. Moretz holds her own when not fighting as well. We should be seeing a lot more of her in the future.
Even stranger is the performance of Nic Cage, as her father, Big Daddy. The name is disquieting on its own, but seeing the way he talks to his daughter (think Raising Arizona after 10 years in the clink for a crime he didn’t commit) while teaching her to be a lethal weapon is incredibly unsettling…and reflective of the kind of sociopath you would expect to take justice in his own hands while wearing a costume. There is a rumor that Brad Pitt thought about playing this role. He might have been able to pull it off, but Nic Cage can do a role like this like no one else.
The mob-boss responsible for putting Big Daddy behind bars is Frank D’Amico, played by Mark Strong. Strong was also the bad guy in the recent Robin Hood retooling, but you might have been too drowsy to notice. Here he is actually allowed to show some real menacing chops, as well as some touching parenting skills for his son, Chris. The chemistry between both sets of father/children is an interesting mirror. That one side is for the good and one side is for the mob belies the fact that both sides are bonded in violence. Mintz-Plasse seems the least capable of inflicting damage with his body, but the cleverness is his remonstrating is quite believable.
Johnson, for his part, has the wide-eyed innocence to act as the vehicle of the viewer. We take this journey with him as if we are on a roller coaster ride. We suffer with him, and are surprised with him. His skill at being unskilled, yet determined is essential to the believability of the plot, and he sells it as if his life depends on it.
Once the paths of Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy cross with the D’Amico family, the sparks and blood begin to fly. Where it goes from there is for you to see. All I can say is the idea behind Kick-Ass is original and uniquely portrayed by the cast and crew. The screenplay is remarkably cliché free and moves along at a brisk pace. Matthew Vaughn uses excellent framing technique and he allows little time for sentimentality. The end of the film pushes the limits of believability, but if you compare it to any other super-hero film, it’s quite realistic. There is a sense of menace, a sense of wonder, and a sense of reality to all the proceedings. It is even better the second time through, but I don’t think I can ever allow my kids to see it. That is, until they are well older than the girl who does the majority of the killing.
(**** out of *****)