AGAINST THE GRAIN: Kick-Ass (2010)

Richard isn’t a fan of Matthew Vaughn’s “comic book” opus. Here’s why. 

Upon my latest viewing of Kick-Ass, I finally figured out what my main problem is with this film – it doesn’t give me a reason to care about the story or any of the characters. Sure, it THINKS its giving us reasons to care, but I just have no investment whatsoever in the main character. The motivations for Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) wanting to become a superhero are totally non-existent. He says, “No-one has ever tried being a superhero before” and just decides to do it one day. From what I can gather, he does this because he’s a typical down-on-his-luck high school geek whose life isn’t all that great. Yeah, how many times have we seen this character? I’ve honestly lost count by this point, but anyway, Dave decides to become a “superhero” called Kick-Ass and goes out to fight crime with pretty disastrous results.

Somehow, he becomes an Internet celebrity and gets millions of fans, even though he never really does anything heroic. Aside from clumsily rescuing someone being beaten up by a gang of thugs, of course, but even then Dave doesn’t come off well in the fight. Also, the film seems to stop caring about him, too, as it instantly switches focus to two actual superhero characters named Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). These two have taken it upon themselves to kill the main villain, crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), because Big Daddy used to be a cop who was framed by D’Amico and sent to prison for five years. Regrettably, his wife also died whilst giving birth to Hit Girl.

I can understand why Big Daddy would want revenge, but hasn’t he taken into consideration the affect this could have on his eleven-year-old daughter? I don’t find Big Daddy or Hit Girl that appealing because they seem to relish the violence and carry out many reprehensible acts of brutality on criminals. This, in my view, doesn’t make them heroes but makes them just as bad if not worse than the crooks they are fighting. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if it wasn’t offset by a poor attempt on the part of director Matthew Vaughn to make the audience laugh. Which is another problem I have, as while the film has a lot of brutal violence, it also has a lot of awkward humour which doesn’t feel natural. Apparently, we are supposed to find it funny when Hit Girl massacres a group of mafia goons in graphic and shocking ways. The film definitely has a tone problem as it can’t seem to decide if it wants to be a lighthearted parody of superhero films, a genuinely serious superhero film, a black comedy or a violent crime drama. I’m left rolling my eyes at the poor attempts at humour and waiting for the film to stop laughing at itself and tell an interesting story. If this movie decided to just be a mix of superhero parody and black comedy, and gave more substance to its characters, I would be perfectly fine with that. But, for me, we are left with a somewhat confusing mess of a film that is all over the place in terms of its style. It just can’t settle on what kind of narrative it wants to tell.

I also would have wanted the main character to suffer some real consequences for his actions. What makes true superheros relatable, in my opinion, is when they fail, realise their mistakes and become stronger heroes for it. This kind of trope is done in every great comic book film such as Superman II, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and Iron Man. I suppose you could argue that the death of Big Daddy is the fault of Kick-Ass, but Dave doesn’t really learn anything from the experience; he doesn’t change as a character or become more likable, brushing the whole thing off like it never happened. It’s problems like this which means that the supposedly dramatic and heart-rending moments have little to no weight. If you want me to care when a protagonist gets hurt or dies, or find it sad when someone they know perishes, then don’t try to make me laugh about it. Because it takes me out of the film completely and leaves me scratching my head in confusion.

And that is the main flaw with the film right there – it starts off as an origin story for Kick-Ass, then turns into a Big Daddy and Hit Girl movie, before trying to tell a violent crime story that makes you laugh. I know that all comedy is subjective and a lot of people enjoyed this film for its humour, but I didn’t find it funny when Hit Girl murdered a group of drug dealers and called one of them a “cunt.” I didn’t find it funny when Big Daddy shot Hit Girl to test her bulletproof vest, and I especially didn’t find it funny when Big Daddy and Kick-Ass were both brutally beaten whilst Dave’s friends watched on the Internet and gave a thumbs up when an attractive girl hugs him.

To sum up, Kick-Ass is definitely a film with an identity crisis. It can’t decide what it wants to be, the crime story elements just don’t fit with the comedic tone, and the humour comes off as forced and weak. For me, the main characters just aren’t interesting, likable or funny. If I was to coin a new phrase it would be this: one goofy performance by Nicolas Cage does not a good movie make.

Useless Trivia

(Via IMDb)
  • In response to criticism towards Hit-Girl’s character, Chloë Grace Moretz stated in an interview, “If I ever uttered one word that I said in Kick-Ass, I would be grounded for years! I’d be stuck in my room until I was 20! I would never in a million years say that. I’m an average, everyday girl.” Moretz has said that while filming, she could not bring herself to say the film’s title out loud in interviews, instead calling it “the film” in public and “Kick-Butt” at home.
  • Nicolas Cage modelled his speech as Big Daddy on original 60’s Batman Adam West.
  • In the final lines of the movie, Red Mists says: “As a great man once said: Wait ’till they get a load of me.” He is quoting Jack Nicholson playing The Joker in the 1989 Batman movie.

Richard Bal

My name is Richard, I like beer, heavy metal and movies, but maybe not necessarily in that order.

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