Friday Film Review .... I know it is late, & there are two reasons for this. The first is that I was concerned for some friends who live in Haifa, Israel in the path of the Inferno, and secondly that I did not want to show disrespect for the 42 lives lost in that fire .... 42 Israelis died trying to save Arab prisoners who would have died in their cells in that fire (whether wild or deliberately set) and the Arabs showed their gratitude by dancing in the streets of Southern Haifa when finding out about those Jewish deaths, as even more Jewish lives are put at risk to curb that fire, even now!
Sooooo .... MAJOR Blog on that whole situation tomorrow, when I can view it through more dispassionate eyes. I have some tremendous cellphone pictures to post!
Anyways .... in April of this year I saw a movie I was initially unsure about at the Cinema .... I adored it so much I purchased it as soon as it became available on DVD. That Movie was "Kick Ass"!!
I've long been a fan of Comics, read 'Marvel' as a kid, & it was quite the highlight of my week. I wore out the pages of my favourite ones I read them so often, and Spiderman was my favourite Superhero! He had a secretive, stealthy Superhero status but at heart was just a boy. A teenage superhero with no gadgets or mentor, (just life itself), lots of vunerability & a powerful sense of responsibility. Although a super hero, he was spared none of the slings and arrows of ordinary life ~ he experienced difficulties with friends, family, sweethearts and employers. Peter Parker's powers enabled him to do good, but not to improve his own lot in life, he was a super-hero with all the problems of being a geeky teenager who became "your friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man."
As originally depicted by writer Stan Lee and artist Steve Ditko, Peter Parker, bright & imaginative, but nonetheless an alienated adolescent, was just like the typical comic book reader. He misses appointments, catches the flu when he needs to fight, forgets to put film in his camera and has trouble paying the rent. In short Spider-Man was "the superhero who could be you."
Kick-Ass is the story of an ordinary New York high schooler named Dave, played by Aaron Johnson (no, you haven’t heard of him), who one day decides its time someone in real life tries to be a super-hero. He orders a wetsuit for a costume, styles himself “Kick-Ass,” and goes out to beat up criminals like the vigilantes in his beloved comic books. The result? He gets his ass kicked.
Dave takes lengths to inform the audience that there’s nothing unique about his history, that he hasn’t made this choice because criminals killed his parents or because of any other defining tragedy. However, the film’s undertones make the point that Dave has in fact experienced something of a tragedy ~ the 21st century American childhood, just like Peter Parker! Dave’s environment is run down, commercialized, and drawn into the information age to the point of being soulless. He walks through a metal detector in the entrance to his school and gets repeatedly mugged on the way home from the comic shop. His crush Katie (Lyndsy Fonesca) works at the needle exchange, and his widower father appears completely defeated by life. It’s no wonder Dave wants to bring some idealistic comic book justice into his world.
He finds out, however, that the world of Kick-Ass by no means lends itself to idealism. He gets hospitalized after his very first attempt at playing hero, and his successive ventures don’t go much better, other than making him into a Youtube sensation. The movie works best when it’s tethered to reality like this, exploring what would really happen if somebody in our world mimicked comic books. But he soon learns that he is not alone, as the father and daughter duo of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) take him under their wing. They are off to destroy the drug kingpin Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), the man responsible for undermining their quiet family life. When it looks like Kick-Ass and his companions will succeed in shutting him down, the mobster gets his eager-to-please son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) to help destroy these do-gooders once and for all.
The biggest surprise to me in this movie was that it wasn’t completely farcical. The commercials made it seem like maybe a bit of a tongue in cheek violent romp through the park, but it in fact has a serious side. Aaron Johnson plays squeaky-voiced Dave with gusto, especially considering the British actor played a New Yorker~ and well. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who will likely spend the rest of his career trying to outgrow his role as McLovin in the brilliant Superbad, coasts through Red Mist on his geeky charm. Thirteen-year-old Chloë Moretz, who’s also playing the controversial child vampire role in this year’s American remake of Sweden’s Let the Right One In, displays wit, grace, and guts befitting a much older actor. This girl is definitely worth keeping an eye on. Her role made news for its adult nature ... she cusses and kicks ass with the best of them, and people can’t take that coming from a little girl. It’s refreshing to see a kid get to hold her own against the baddies. Nicholas Cage puts on his goofball persona as Big Daddy, unnecessarily adding an earnest and stilted quality to the character. Mark Strong bared his chops as a villain in last year’s Sherlock Holmes, and shows once again that evil doesn’t have to mean sombre. He gave the movie a much-needed edge of danger and reality to keep the story grounded.
Because there was definitely some flights-of-fancy awesomeness going on, most of it surrounding Hit Girl. She was the real star of this film, and Moretz played the part brilliantly, flipping between excited daddy’s-little-girl, teasing kid, and all-business superhero putting down roomfuls of grown men. Some of the best death sequences I’ve seen since Shoot ‘Em Up came with her pointing the gun. Also one of the best-filmed shoot-out scenes I’ve ever watched. It’s in a room that is completely dark, and it has four different motifs to keep the long ~ it was about 4 minutes ~ shoot-out interesting. First she puts on night-vision goggles and goes into a video-game first-person-shooter look. Then she uses a strobe light to make herself a hard target and we see what it looks like to be staring down at death in that form. Interspersed with these two styles are camera shots of empty blackness punctuated by flashes from the various guns. Finally someone lights a fire and she uses the strobe as a decoy, and we watch her come up from the side in strobe effect. And all of this was overlaid with one of my favourite pieces of cinematic music from the last decade, the intense, building, and dramatic ”Sunshine, Adagio in D Minor” from the Sunshine soundtrack. Awesome!
She Swears as well, & she cracks jokes about the mayor having a sky signal that “looks like a giant cock” and ends one of the shoot-outs with the line “show’s over, motherfuckers” before she takes out the camera. But all of this is in keeping with her character as the beloved and well-trained daughter of a dangerous man bent on revenge, and I personally found her most Awesome. And if you have enough time to be outraged by a pre-pubescent girl saying a few one-syllable words, then I’d respectively suggest finding worthier concerns.
For Dave, it's a question of empowerment ~ and possibly, getting a girl (Lyndsy Fonseca). On the other hand, Hit-Girl is all pint-sized power and knife throwing, automatic weapon wielding efficiency ~ and she's a 'tween'. She has the steely eye and swiftness of a highly trained killer and yet, that's not all she is. When we learn how she came to be such a foul-mouthed fighting machine, the truth is upsetting, and we realize we care!
Add in Cage doing his best Shatner/Adam West riff, Strong as a despotic villain, you've got the makings of a stand-out celebration of all things caped and crusading. Vaughn understands that nothing beats the battle between good and evil told in an energetic and exciting manner, and he constantly delivers the splashy, stunt-filled goods. Moretz is destined to be singled out, as much for her salty language as her battle skills, but without someone like Vaughn behind the lens, making us believe in her abilities (and her sobering backstory), it would seem artificial. With him, Kick-Ass is so not that.
Kick-Ass is one of the greatest post-modern superhero movies of all time, to rank alongside the realism of Christopher Nolan's amazing The Dark Knight and the historical reinvention of Alan Moore's Watchmen. This tale of teen angst and scuba gear self-actualization is ultra-violent wish fulfillment at its very best. In the hands of Layer Cake's Matthew Vaughn, we get the requisite action flourishes and over the top stylized set-pieces. But there is more here than just gunplay and delusions of masked vigilante grandeur. Kick-Ass contemplates the reasons behind such foolhardy individual choices and argues that, sometimes, it's more heart than head which guides them. I am a huge fan of director, Matthew Vaughn who previously did Stardust and Layer Cake. I love how he took the gritty violence of layer Cake and combined it with the fantastical of Stardust and made an honest to Goodness original, entertaining comic book adaptation. It’s a dark movie, darker by far than the marketing would lead viewers unfamiliar with Millar’s work to expect.
So what’s in it for Spider-Man fans? Well, besides the connection of the creators involved, Spider-Man is referenced several times. The most overt reference is made when Dave is contemplating revealing his identity (and his heterosexuality) to his love interest. He declares that the difference between Spider-Man and Peter Parker is that Spider-Man “gets the girl.” To really enjoy this film, you have to have a heavy appreciation of cynical irony and juxtaposition, the running theme through the Spidey domain is turned on it's head here .... "With no power comes no responsibility", yet Kick-Ass ends with an inspiring image of our heroes leaving the final battle, all responsibility executed well.
The music used was well-chosen throughout. As I mentioned, they used a John Murphy piece from Sunshine. I also picked out more Murphy from 28 Days Later, and some Ennio Morricone from For a Few Dollars More, along with pop music that complemented scenes either by being humorous (“Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley) or emphasizing the attitude of a character (“Bad Reputation” when Hit Girl is hitting it). This was a movie that was intentionally referencing other pieces of popular culture, which is only fitting when the storyline is based on someone trying to make a piece of that fantasy culture real. This Movie KICKS ASS!!!!!