Dave, a comic book nerd high school outcast, is tired of the petty crimes surrounding him and decides to fight back. Inspired by his love of comic heroes, he becomes Kick Ass the crime fighter. If only he had powers.
The first time I saw this “Kick Ass,” I really enjoyed it and would have rated it around 4 stars. I was younger, hadn’t been to film school and some of its lesser qualities were lost on me.
Now, while I still appreciate a lot of this film’s better qualities, the bad acting especially bothers me. Chloe Grace Moretz (“Suspiria” (2018)) is a fine actress but her portrayal of Hit Girl is so over the top that even in an over the top film. It has me cringing almost constantly. I know that will rub some of the fans of this movie the wrong way because Hit Girl is a very popular part of why people love “Kick Ass” What can I say? That’s just how I feel about it.
She is not the only offender here either. Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s performance leaves a lot to be desired. He’s great as Kick Ass but as Dave, he’s boring and uninspired. I suppose that could be intentional but I suspect not. The scenes between him and high school love interest who thinks he’s gay but falls for him anyway, Lyndsy Fonseca (“Hot Tub Time Machine”), are just one bad actor grabbing desperately for something authentic from another bad actor trying to recite their lines at the same time as they try to portray emotion. Y’know. They try acting.
Nicolas Cage plays Big Daddy, a former cop seeking revenge for his wife’s murder by the mob. He has an impressive arsenal at his disposal and has schooled his young daughter Mindy to become Hit Girl, a sort of Robin to his Batman. Literally, Cage runs around in a Batman costume cutting down baddies with shotguns, pistols, and grenades like he’s the grim reaper swinging his scythe.
Yeah. Don’t let the comic book veneer fool you. This is a hard R for violence. It is, however, meant to be played for humor most of the time as evidenced by the inspired Nic Cage crazy acting choice to do an Adam West Impression(Batman from the 60s TV series) whenever he is in costume.
Therein lies my nitpick issue with the film, though. While on the one hand the high concept pitch is amazing and grounded: high school kid with no powers tries to be a superhero but doesn’t have super powers; on the other hand it is in no way a grounded film, He literally flies a jet pack with mini-guns on it at one point and hit-girl is quite literally doing Wuxia martial arts moves complete with wire work.
Which is it? Should we be laughing or empathizing? When Kick Ass first tries to fight crime he almost gets murdered when one of the thugs simply stabs him and they all beat the snot out of him, breaking his bones to pieces and sending him into rehab after an ambulance trip. Yet, it doesn’t seem like we are really supposed to feel at all bad about all the other violence in the film or emotional disturbance and apparent mental illness in the film. I suppose that mix is what makes it fun but it also rubs me wrong a little bit so I think the balance is just slightly off for me. Like I said, a nitpick.
The story really is the star here. Even almost 10 years later, this film still seems to have twists, turns, humor, and tender moments which play off common superhero tropes. I’m not sure how much of that is due to the movie’s staying power or how much is because superhero films have evolved so little in the last ten years. Regardless, it’s still fun and fresh feeling and a worthy addition to any comic book movie junkie’s watch queue.
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