Thursday, 18 March 2010

Review of Kick-Ass, thanks to @newsunlimited - SPOILERS AHOY

Last night I saw the upcoming movie Kick-Ass, based on the comic written by Mark Millar, thanks to a free ticket from News Unlimited, which I won by replying to a message on their Twitter account. There are spoilers in here, but I stop telling the plot about two-thirds of the way through.

The film is about a young New York man, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) , who decides he wants to be a costumed superhero, not because of any great trauma or earth-shattering event in his life, but just because it's so mundane. The most exciting thing that happens to him is getting mugged every now and again by local hoods, but even that's hardly an adrenaline rush, it's just one of the tedious things he has to put up with.

So x buys a green wetsuit with a matching neoprene mask and becomes Kick-Ass. After a few weeks training, he encounters the same hoods who routinely mug him trying to break into a car, ducks into an alley to change into his costume and confronts them. He ends up getting stabbed in the belly and takes a vicious kicking. While in an ambulance he persuades the paramedic to get rid of his costume so no-one will know why he was beaten, which means he is brought naked to the hospital. This leads to a rumour spreading around his school that he was beaten after a gay encounter went wrong, which means Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), who's ignored him up to now, starts paying him attention as she's always wanted a gay best friend. This is, presumably, the fault of Will and Grace.

X continues to patrol the streets as Kick-Ass, and when he takes on three hoods fighting one man he's recorded by spectators on their moble phones, and becomes a celebrity when the footage is uploaded to YouTube. He starts a MySpace page (why MySpace? The comic was first published in 2008, when MySpace was already in decline, and the film doesn't appear to have any connection to News Corporation, MySpace's owner) for Kick-Ass, and when he learns that y is being harassed by a client of the needle exchange she volunteers at, he tells her to contact Kick-Ass for help. As Kick-Ass, he goes to the client's home to tell him to back off, and is almost killed when he is saved by Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage), a father-and-daughter team of costumed heroes who have some serious fighting skills and a ridiculously large arsenal of weapons.

Big Daddy has been beating up the soldiers and and stealing the drugs of crime kingpin Frank d'Amico (Mark Strong), but when D'Amico's minions tell him that drugs were stolen by a man in a mask and cape, he assumes they are lying and has them killed. When D'Amico realises that there really are costumed heroes after him, he assumes Kick-Ass is the real danger, as Big Daddy, an ex-cop named Macready who D'Amico had framed as a drug dealer after Macready refused to be corrupted, has carefully stayed hidden up till now.

In a seriously psychologically unsatisfying scene Dave and Katie become lovers, AFTER Dave (dressed as Kick-Ass) breaks into Katie's room at night, frightens the hell out of her and then admits he's been lying about being gay so Katie would pay attention to him. Maybe this is meant to show that Katie likes abusive relationships, after all she also befriended the client at the needle exchange and gave him money (and continues to be allowed to volunteer there? OK, it's a film based on a comic, not a documentary, but still...)

Meanwhile D'Amico's son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) poses as Red Mist, another costumed hero, to try and lure Kick-Ass into a position where he can be captured, in an attempt to win his father's approval. He makes contact with Kick-Ass but before the ambush can be sprung, Big Daddy destroys the lumber mill which is the front for the drug operations, enraging D'Amico. A hidden camera Chris hid in the mill reveals Big Daddy to be the real threat, and Chris remembers that Kick-Ass mentioned the existence of other costumed heroes, and uses Kick-Ass to lead his father's soldiers to Big Daddy. This sets up the final battles in the movie.

The movies was fun enough, with lots of well-done, slick action, and it had the audience laughing. A few people walked out - Hit Girl is only "eleven" according to one character, and she has some pretty foul language, including calling some of the bad guys "cunts" as she kills them. Her character is an incredibly dangerous fighter, and her weird relationship with her father is quite endearing, if utterly traumatising for a young child. As one character points out, she has no real childhood - her whole life with her father is training to kill very effectively. Naturally, Nicolas Cage plays the fairly creepy yet doting and protective parent quite well.

I wonder if anyone paying attention to racial issues in the USA has had anything to say about this movie. Most of the evil characters were either Italian or African-American, and only one African-American character was unequivocally a good guy (Omari Hardwick as Marcus), and he had barely any screen time. I first really noticed this in the scene where Kick-Ass gets saved by Hit Girl and Big Daddy in the junkies' house - all the enemies there are African-American. This makes me wonder if the movie isn't just another story about scary black people (and Italian Mafia) being kept in their place by good white people, with a few "good blacks" thrown in for good measure. The corrupt police officer who was in D'Amico's pocket also had an Italian name.

Another thing I found a little tedious were the obvious references to other comic books, films and so on. Ok, ok, we get it. It was quite witty when The Simpsons started referencing other works, but that was twenty years ago, and these days I find it a little tedious. Since I'd never even heard of the comic book until yesterday, and since I'm not very big into comics anyway, I assume I missed out on plenty of stuff that fans of the comic would have picked up. Dave's fear of being thought of as gay and the jokes around that theme were a bit annoying too, but I guess that's fairly true-to-life.

And lastly, a word about a rather irritating habit that seems to be spreading at review screenings - we had to stand in a great big line and hand in our phones and iPods. This is presumably so I couldn't take a nasty, grainy, small video of the film with horrible muddy sound, which you would watch in preference to seeing the film on a screen twenty feet tall with surround sound. I guess since I didn't pay cash to see the movie I can't complain too much (but then, they're getting free publicity out of me from this review). But it was annoying, and I really doubt that the most popular illegal downloads are from people sneaking in video cameras. Most of the downloads I've seen were direct rips from the DVD or, possibly, directly from digital copies distributed by the maker. Taking mobile phones off people strikes me as being as effective as arresting street-level drug dealers while the kingpins are protected by their money and power. Also, it meant I couldn't tell Twitter that I was waiting for the movie to start. Oh well, if you don't want free publicity guys....

Anyway that's my review. The film opens in Australia on Thursday April 8.

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