IMDb; Rotten Tomatoes; TV Tropes; Wikia; Wikipedia
streaming sites: Amazon; Google Play; iTunes; Vudu; YouTube
The first thing I need to say, just to dispense with it, is that this movie kicks ass. I mean, it's just such an obvious thing to say, I'm powerless to avoid it, despite knowing how massively unoriginal I must be to do so. To be more accurate, this movie kicks an insane amount of ass. Of course, I also have to say that the movie is based on a graphic novel of the same name, which I don't recall having heard of until I started hearing of the movie, some months before it came out. Maybe I saw the comics at my LCS and paid them no mind, I dunno. But apparently they were pretty popular. Anyway, I picked up a trade paperback of the series (which was 8 issues long) just before going to see the movie, and spent a couple days reading it, after seeing the movie. It's kind of funny, because I usually like to read the book (graphic or otherwise) before seeing the movie. But doing it the opposite way this time... maybe not such a bad idea. It's impossible to say how I would have felt about the movie if I'd read the comics first. There are scenes that are lifted almost directly from the book, there are scenes that have been subtly tweaked, and then there are things that are markedly different. But the overall plot is pretty much the same. Some things seem more fleshed out in the movie, and other things moreso in the comic. (As Dave- I think- says early in the comic, "What works on the page doesn't always work on the screen.") One thing that's kinda weird is that the title character, Kick-Ass... isn't really the best character in either medium, though I felt he was more important to the comic than the movie, actually. Still... everyone's essential, in their own way. And in both media, it definitely makes sense for Kick-Ass to be the central character. He is the most... identifiable. You know, like Arthur Dent. A more or less normal sort of person through whom readers or viewers can vicariously experience extraordinary events.
Another thing it's necessary to point out is that the basic premise of the comic (and movie) is about some guy, in this case Dave Lizewski, who wonders why no one has ever tried becoming a superhero in real life. I mean, there are millions of comic book fans, and some comic book heroes (most notably Batman) don't even have super powers. So, in theory, it could be done. (And I sort of think in real life, I mean actual real life, some people probably have tried it, albeit without the success of people in "Kick-Ass.") But... the thing I find rather ironic is that... obviously, we're talking about a fictional character in, guess what- a comic book (and a movie). Yes, kind of ironic and kind of meta (I love calling things "meta"), but also inescapable, the fact that writing a fictional story of this sort is... you know, exactly the thing it's supposedly looking at from the outside, in reality. Except that it's not reality. You know? Meh, but whatever. It's still a cool concept. I will say the movie is less realistic than the comic (and as such, IMO, also cooler, sort of). More about wish-fulfillment than about realism (but even so, it's more realistic than any other comic book movie I can think of).
Oh, and I also wanted to mention that the big yellow font used in the movie's advertising reminds me a lot of Watchmen, another movie based on a graphic novel, with a similar theme: superheroes without super powers, in an essentially realistic world. An exploration of what it might be like if real people took inspiration from comic books, to become masked heroes. The story in "Kick-Ass" is far less epic than that of "Watchmen," its heroes less iconic. "Watchmen" is just generally a better story, in either medium, more serious, but also less realistic, in some ways (and yet, definitely better thought-out). Besides which, "Kick-Ass" is mainly a comedy, and its heroes are mostly a lot younger than those of "Watchmen."
Anyway, enough preamble. The story, as I've mentioned, is about Dave Lizewski, a teenage comic book fan who decides to become a superhero in real life. In both the book and the movie, he makes a point of mentioning that he has no cool origin story, nothing really motivating him, beyond boredom. (His mother had died a few years ago, but that's not important to the story.) He's just this average, geeky guy, who has a few average, geeky friends. He has a crush on a girl at school named Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), though she- like everyone else in Dave's school- has no interest in him. Anyway, one day he orders a wetsuit off eBay, and decides to call himself "Kick-Ass." So he spends a few weeks vaguely training, or whatever, before one day finally confronting some guys who were trying to break into a car. (These were guys who had previously mugged him and a friend.) And they stab and beat the shit out of him. Then he gets hit by a car.
He spends some time in the hospital, and gets metal plates throughout his body, as well as suffering irreparable nerve damage, which leaves him with an inability to feel pain, on a normal level. This ends up sort of helping him when he returns to his efforts at crimefighting. Doesn't make him stronger, or anything, but... better able to withstand a beating, anyway. Also, Katie becomes more interested in him, and they start hanging out. Because she thinks he's gay, and he does nothing to correct this belief. He just wants to get closer to her, even though his friends think he should tell her the truth.
Then one day, he intervenes when a bunch of gang bangers are beating on some guy, and saves his life. And someone records the fight using his camera phone, and uploads a video to YouTube, which goes viral. Kick-Ass becomes famous, and starts a MySpace page, which people use to ask him for help. One such request comes from Katie (who of course doesn't know that her new GBF Dave is actually Kick-Ass). So he goes to confront this guy, Rasul, who wouldn't leave her alone. He's like a drug dealer, and he's surrounded by a bunch of tough guys, so Kick-Ass is no match, and very well might have been killed... except that suddenly Hit-Girl shows up. She's like 10 or 11 years old, but... she's got a better costume than Kick-Ass, better weapons, and she's obviously been well trained. So it seems he wasn't the first real life superhero, after all, he's just the first to go public. Anyway, Hit-Girl kills everyone at Rasul's place. It is at this point that the movie really starts to get truly awesome. She is one of the most bad-ass fighters I think I've ever seen. Also incredibly foul-mouthed.
And I need to stop talking about plot for a minute, to address what is bound to be a concern among many viewers: is it really acceptable to have a young kid playing this kind of role? I dunno, there are a lot of feelings I have on this point. First of all, it's just a movie. Which brings us to the question of, what kind of parents would let their kid do this? I've read somewhere that the actress (ChloŽ Grace Moretz) said her parents would ground her if she talked like that in real life, and one might say that's all well and good, but aren't they still wrong to let her play a character who talks that way? My first response is, does anyone really have the right to tell people how to raise their kids? Is she really being hurt? Acting isn't real, and I think actors, of any age, understand that. They can separate fantasy from reality, probably better than most people. Another point I need to make is that... there are plenty of kids her age or younger, in real life, who do talk like that, whether their parents know it or not. And I feel it would be ridiculous to say fiction need adhere to some idealized vision of childhood, which bears little or no relation to reality, even if we might wish it did. Then there's the question of violence. Of course, it's wrong in real life, regardless of who's committing it: good, bad, young, old, whatever. But what's cool about movies like this isn't the violence in and of itself, it's... the moves. I don't imagine Moretz herself performed the stunts, but damn... Hit-Girl just totally owns. (As much as I love Watchmen's Rorschach, who is clearly insane and brutal, I felt like Hit-Girl would kick his ass.) My feeling is, if you enjoy the kind of fighting moves on display here in other movies, done by adult characters, you should appreciate the coolness here, as well. If you don't approve here, you don't have the right to appreciate it in any movie. But the important thing is, Hit-Girl just totally kicks ass. She is the coolest, funniest, and ultimately the most sympathetic character in the movie, in fact she is the main reason to watch the movie. (Also, the kid totally rocks her purple wig.)
Anyway, Kick-Ass becomes aware of Hit-Girl and her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), and they establish the possibility of teaming up. We also learn their origin story. Big Daddy was a cop who refused to work for a mob boss named Frank D'Amico, so he was framed and went to prison. And his wife was killed, but not before giving birth to Mindy Macready (in the comic it was McCready). Eventually, her father got out of prison, and trained her to join him in his vendetta against D'Amico. (This story is detailed in a comic book Big Daddy made, and we see it as a motion comic, the kind of thing you'd see online, though the CGI is rather more movie quality.) We also eventually meet his former partner, Marcus, who isn't pleased about the way he's raised Mindy. So the movie kind of touches on the fact that... it isn't right. I mean, that's obvious from the fact that, unlike most superheroes you've ever seen in comics or movies, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl aren't just willing to take lives, they're pretty much unwilling to leave any enemy alive, at all. Definitely wrong, regardless of how cool the action sequences may be. Still... it's not like the people they kill don't deserve it. I guess. Clearly, those people are all more than willing to kill anyone, themselves. But it's nice that the movie at least, as I say, touched on the fact that what these so-called heroes do is wrong, and that Big Daddy hasn't made the best parenting choices. Even so... Hit-Girl seems like a happy kid, whose father loves her. Even if the whole situation is more twisted than she can possibly understand, at her age. Anyway, while the main point of the movie may be the question of whether Kick-Ass (or anyone) can really make it as a superhero in real life, and while it's cool to see how hard it is (hopefully anyone crazy enough to actually try it will be dissuaded by how often Kick-Ass nearly dies, but hey, either way, it's not like crazy people need an incentive to try crazy things)... and as little attention is paid to this other point, one of the most important plot points is really, just how crazy is Big Daddy for raising Mindy this way? (This is a much more pertinent question than whether Moretz's parents are wrong to let her play such a character.) And... do his reasons to much of any degree justify his craziness? To be honest, there's little point in worrying about all that, as far as the movie is concerned, though hopefully it would be more fully explored in a sequel. For present purposes, it seems best to acknowledge that the question is there, then just move on and revel in both the humor and the action. (But I will say that, however disturbing you might find the Macready family dynamic in the movie, it turns out to be even more disturbing in the comic.)
...Meanwhile, D'Amico is upset about all the damage that's been done to his business in recent months, and begins to suspect Kick-Ass is responsible. But Kick-Ass has realized he's in over his head, and wants to quit the whole superhero thing. He also finally tells Katie the truth, and they get together. But she also wants him to quit the superhero thing, fearing for his safety. And then, a new hero emerges, called Red Mist. (In the movie, we learn the truth about him from the beginning, unlike the comic, which doesn't reveal his true identity and motives until later.) I don't want to spoil that, but I will say he contacts Kick-Ass through his website, and they sort of team up. And Red Mist tells him D'Amico has put a price on their heads. So, Kick-Ass gets in touch with Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, hoping they can help.
At this point... I think saying much of anything else about the plot would be too spoilery. Bad things happen to our heroes, and bad things happen to the bad guys. Ah... I did mean to mention that at one point in the movie, we see D'Amico training with a Muk Yan Jong, so I suppose it was predictable that, no matter how bad-ass Hit-Girl was with her fists, feet, swords, knives, and guns... he would be a match for her. (Hey, it'd be boring if she took everyone down with minimal effort.) But, in the end, the good guys win (not without seriously dramatic sacrifice), and normalcy is restored, more or less. Except that now people all over the world are putting on costumes and trying to be superheroes. Which of course means there will be villains, as well.
So, yeah. Anyway. We start with the cool concept of people being superheroes in real life. Add plenty of awesome action, a lot of humor and geek culture references (Kick-Ass's narration is reminiscent of any number of things, but mainly calls to mind Spider-Man; the final line is a reference to the original "Batman" movie; one of my favorite lines in the movie references Lost; and, you know, there are countless other things....) Anyway, Kick-Ass himself was... not that great as a superhero, but as I said, a good sort of intermediary for the viewer, especially if that viewer happens to be a comic book geek him/herself. And again, it's... I dunno... reasonable that the main character doesn't have a cool origin story or powers, while other characters sort of do. A part of me feels like it's a bit of betrayal of the premise that the coolest characters are more similar to fictional comic book characters, but whatever. It was still a hella fun movie. Just wicked funny and bad-ass. And I hope I'm not forgetting anything else I've thought of saying over the past couple days, but I probably am.
Followed by Kick-Ass 2