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I am Salty The Beast. I am what you might call a Renaissance man, meaning I find interest in most every medium. I love watching movies, listening to music, writing music, playing video games, making videos, etc.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Kick-Ass


In the world portrayed in “Kick-Ass,” the film adaptation of a comic book series of the same name, one theme is represented that is almost never addressed in most other superhero movies: superheroes existing in a realistic world. People are in both shock and awe upon randomly encountering them on the street. Teenagers take videos on their camera phones and post them on YouTube. Criminals themselves laugh at the absurdity of a colorfully-dressed fantasy straight out of Stan Lee’s (in the real comics case, Mark Millar’s) mind. These reactions are unlike anything you’ve ever seen in the “Spider-Man” series, and so is the rest of the film.

The question comes to young and nerdy high school student Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) about why nobody has ever taken on the task of becoming a comic book hero. The unveiling of his idea to his comic-geek friends (Clark Duke and Evan Peters) garners skepticism and raises eyebrows. Despite their cynicism toward the idea, Dave still has faith that it can be done. This incentive inspires him to undertake the duty of masked crime fighting under the persona “Kick-Ass.” He buys a green and yellow wetsuit and two matching green tongs and is ready to kill.

On his first attempt to put a pair of car jackers in their place, Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked (oh, the irony) not only by the bad guys, but by a speeding car as well. In spite of being reduced to a bloody pulp, this incident doesn’t entirely bring his spirits down just yet. On his second round of patrolling a few weeks later, he inadvertently gets into a rumble with a violent gang. This time around actually turns Kick-Ass into an internet sensation, a comic book icon, a local phenomenon, and an all around huge celebrity.

His celebrity spreads even to the real villain of the movie, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). Frank is the wealthy, greedy master of a large drug scandal by night and a lumber salesman by day. He has an outcast son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who, aside from being another comic book fan, will later don the identity “Red Mist” (Funny, I’m surprised that he thought he could pull off a secret identity with such a distinct voice). D’Amico is suspicious that Kick-Ass is the culprit as to why so many of his drug-dealing henchmen have been dropping like flies.

No, the real cause of these outbreaks is the vigilante justice brought upon by Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), a father-daughter superhero team. These two represent the very definition of the term “dysfunctional family,” as well as almost single-handedly earn the movie’s R-rating. During the time when Hit-Girl’s mother was pregnant with her, Big Daddy was a policeman who happened to be framed by D’Amico for a drug-relating offense. This lands him in jail with a five-year sentence. The mother dies while giving birth and Hit-Girl is sent to live with Big Daddy’s right-hand man in the force. Once out of jail, Big Daddy trains Hit-Girl to become a warrior and has hopes to exact revenge on D’Amico.

Every one of these stories later has some connection to one another as the film progresses. It may sound a bit confusing as I am explaining it, but trust me, it flows effortlessly while you are watching. While the film has a bit of unbalance with the two genres it is trying to be (action and comedy), the end result has a tendency to be both exceedingly funny and ridiculously violent (almost like Monty Python’s Black Knight scene on steroids). Sure a hefty portion could be classified as bad taste or “pitch-black” humor (two violent scenes in particular left me cringing rather than laughing), but I was impressed with the controversial chances it took without hesitation.

Like I said, the team of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl managed to acquire most of the pre-release uproar by themselves. Both fight their victims in a super-stylistic manner that rivals another recent comic book adaptation, “Watchmen.” But no, the real uproar surfaced after a red band trailer was released centered on Hit-Girl. The trailer displayed the 11-year old masked anti-hero both dismembering her numerous opponents in a graphic manner and using the language of a sailor.

Bad taste? Absolutely. This did even wear on my tolerance at about the hour-and-a-half point. But in the scenes before, I was at least willing to accept that angle and even appreciate it to some degree. As much as it is shocking to witness the vicious audacity of Hit-Girl, I thought that the supposed controversy was blown way out of proportions. It just made me think of a particular scene in a movie I saw earlier this year, “Legion.” Although a brief scene, that movie included a demon-possessed boy (most likely even younger than Chloë Moretz) uttering the same “f” bombs in a voice like Satan himself. Now why didn’t that movie get slammed? That was an actual bad movie!

But ultimately, I have to give a recommendation to the movie. It presented an original and entertaining idea to the superhero genre and managed to make me laugh several times. Yeah, we’ve seen all the tropes of these kinds of movies: the training session in which the hero tries out his moves, the goofy costumes, the guy getting the girl, etc. “Kick-Ass” handles those same tropes with care while spoofing them at the same moment. I had to give them extra points for not screwing them up like those useless excuses who wrote “Date Movie,” “Disaster Movie,” etc.

“Kick-Ass” is crude, violent, gruesome, merciless, heartless, confrontational, racy, profane and obscene (and bloody, don’t forget that). It is also wildly provocative and entertaining as hell. Just like the “Crank” series, it wears its political incorrectness like a badge of honor and is surprisingly effective in what it is trying to do. It does every once in a while blatantly give the impression of inciting controversy, but I can’t deny one fact: I had a great time seeing it.

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