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Film Review: Kick-Ass

Posted on by sam


Director: Michael Vaughn (2010)

Meanwhile, at the crappy supermarket a big poster proclaims Rise of the Planet of the Apes to be ‘the perfect gift this Christmas’. That’s about as true as giving your loved one the severed head of a pet is the perfect Valentine’s Day gift. Wanting, but seemingly not allowed to forget about Rise of (Review here http://happyfingersproductions.com/film-reviews/film-review-rise-of-the-planet-of-the-apes/) I’ve decided to look at a film I actually like.  A film I like so much, that if I stop copping out whenever anyone asks me to actually list my favourite films, I’m certain will be in my top 10, if not top 5, Kick-Ass.

Image courtesy of the guys who found my cat/lost the link

Boring plot summary; Dave (John Lennon #2 Aaron Johnson) is a decidedly average high-schooler who decides to find himself through the medium of creating a superhero persona; Kick-Ass. At first he fails big time, ending up with permanent nerve damage and rumours about his sexuality. Undeterred, he continues his exploits becoming famous enough to have a popular MySpace page and encounter two other masked vigilantes, Hit Girl, (a foul mouthed 13-year old, yes age is important, Chloe Moretz) and her daddy, imaginatively named, Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage). Hit Girl and Big Daddy are after the baddest gangster in town, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). D’Amico has at his disposal a legion of goons and a geeky son named Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). There’s also a love interest, some geeky friends, Dave’s own father and blah-de-blah-de-blah.

Now, where perfect Christmas gift 2011 Rise of the Planet of the Apes fails and Kick-Ass succeeds is in that mysterious realm I call storytelling. In Rise of, a bunch of crap happens with no context, every character gets shoved into the first five minutes and then the story skips forward a bunch of years. All important plot points have occurred in the interim off-screen. In Kick-Ass we get Dave’s life, we see the banality of his existence, experience his hopes and dreams and share his journey to becoming a superhero. Intimate moments like Dave hanging out with his dickish but somehow not entirely hate-worthy friends, getting embarrassed in front of generic high school hot girl Katie or chickening out of a roof jump are there to attach us to Dave’s Character, which, you know, gets us to give a shit and stuff. Perfect Christmas gift 2011 did do this with Caesar but not until an hour in and for the majority focused on idiot scientist man instead.

I’ll admit now, I can’t remember idiot scientist’s name or be bothered to go back and look it up, which is an example of my laziness………………………….but also nicely demonstrates my point…………………………………………………………………………………… yup.

Another important part of any good story is Characterisation, ok so I liked Caesar, but apart from that cheeky monkey ‘perfect Christmas gift 2011’ was populated almost entirely by a bunch of one dimensional arseholes. The list reads; evil drug company guy who was evil, nice vet who was nice, idiot scientist man who was an idiot. In Kick-Ass characterisation stretches from the support cast to the bit parts, I can tell you more about Dave’s friends or a henchman who liked bazooka’s than I can all but one of the cast of Perfect gift 2011.

In PCG2011, (see what I did there?) the characters seemed to exist simply to say things that will eventually allow the plot to get to the scene of a gorilla leaping on a helicopter. In Kick-Ass characters exist to generate interest. The plot is shown not by what’s said but by what’s done, if all the characters do are sit around and talk about plot points that the audience doesn’t get to see then that will never be as interesting as a film as one where these events are shown, even in simple flashback. Worse still, if all your characters do are sit around making decisions that make no sense except to get to said Gorilla/helicopter showdown then your characters won’t just be uninteresting, they’ll be so boring and shallow that it almost becomes offensive.

In Kick-Ass there’s an early scene where Big Daddy asks hit girl what she’d like for her birthday, her response is a puppy. Big Daddy gets freaked out but then it turns out Hit Girl’s joking, (‘Just fucking with you Daddy’), and she actually wants a butterfly knife. It’s a brief scene but shows us everything we need to know about the characters, their relationship to each other and their personalities, it gives us a story context for later scenes.

Challenge: if you like to go where eagles dare try and find a similar scene in PCG2011 that doesn’t involve an ape talking to an orang-utan.

Perfect Christmas gift 2011 isn’t necessarily a poorer story than Kick-Ass but it was told in a bland and superficial way. I don’t doubt for a second that thoughts of sequels, merchandise and posters outside crappy supermarkets got in the way. If anything Kick-Ass, by choosing to deal with underage violence and thereby making itself untouchable to the American studios, with a smaller budget was in comparison disadvantaged. Vaughn, however, knew how to use the tools at his disposal. What I like about Kick-Ass is how tight everything is, not a second is wasted, every character has purpose, be it to drive the plot, provide comic relief or lay the foundations for future scenes. I guess when you’ve got (in studio terms) a smaller budget you can’t afford to waste screen-time so you maybe make more of an effort.

The action in kick-Ass is on a much smaller scale to most blockbusters and about ten times more effective. The character build is important, the first fight we see Dave get into he loses in about five seconds which makes the next fight all the more compelling. Then there’s the soundtrack, any film that incorporates The Prodigy and The Dickies into its fights is going to have the ‘sounds cool as fuck’ market covered, finally there’s logical editing, a good mix of fast paced cuts, dynamic or at least interesting camerawork and logical pacing. In PCG2011 a plethora of apes take on a battalion of armed police and yet I wasn’t half as thrilled as I was watching Dave take on three assholes laying into one guy while everybody else watches.

So I like Kick-Ass a lot, one infinitesimally small reason is that it wasn’t Rise of the Planet of the Apes but the wider reason is that it did so much right. Is there anything to be nit-picked? Maybe, Mr Cage and Mr Mintz-Plasse are maybe a little dull at times and there’s an end scene which could certainly fall into the ‘cheesy as fuck’ category of schmaltzy endings, however I am nit-picking for the sake of nit-picking like I do every other film, and as faults go they barely register on the scale. Everything about Kick-Ass is entertaining, it’s just a really really really good film and even though a cold means I’m uploading this film review too late for 2011 if such a thing as a perfect Christmas gift exists, which is about as likely as Jesus being born on December 25th, then Kick-Ass would be a good place to start.

To finish, Kick-Ass was released in conjunction with the Mark Millar graphic novel, the graphic novel is just as good as the film but I kept waiting for the ‘cheesy as fuck’ ending. It never came and instead I got treated to the much more realistic ‘your life’s shit, no one else’s is, why are you even wasting time listening me to tell you what you already know, you twat?’ ending. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . I liked both endings.

Written By Sam ‘Story role-played as the Hero Awesome Centuari once, got killed after two days’ McKinstrie

Unnecessarily on twitter as McKinstHFP

See HFP’s videos at www.youtube.com/MrHFProductions

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