SXSW 2010: KICK ASS Review

Peter Martin, Managing Editor
KICK ASS does. At its most elemental level, it's tremendously exciting to see a superhero flick that embraces unadulterated bloodshed and violence while promoting the idea that deranged destruction can happily co-exist with responsible hero-hood. It's a movie that gleefully dances on the grave of political correctness, readily serving up a young girl as a foul-mouthed, highly-trained assassin named Hit-Girl, played by Chloe Moretz. She is an action star for the ages. 

Yet it's also a movie that loses focus as we gradually come to appreciate that the supporting characters are far most interesting than the leads.

The best scenes in the movie are the ones in which it plays out as an outrageous action comedy. The opening scenes are fine: high school loser Dave Lizewski (newcomer Aaron Johnson) wonders why no one ever's just tried to become a superhero, without science or some cosmic accident. He decides on a name and a costume -- a green scuba suit -- and starts to make a name for himself, even while he still faces problems with girls and bullies.

KICK ASS ratchets itself up a serious notch when it introduces Nicolas Cage as Damon Macready (AKA Big Daddy) and the amazing Chloe Moretz (just turned 13) as his daughter Mindy (AKA Hit-Girl). Cage's prediliction for outlandish character tics finally feels organic to the character he's playing, and it's marvelous to watch as he pushes his behavior further and further into a fantastic realm where silliness dances with unreality. As he pursues his agenda, we know Big Daddy has serious issues to resolve, and we know it will pay off -- it must pay off -- in a grand, operatic manner.

That it does, and the smashingly-choreographed action sequences establish new benchmarks in bullet ballet -- not to mention the dance of every other kind of sharp object and projectile weapon you can imagine. 

The high school antics are winning but not particularly fresh or new, remaining firmly within the ever-common wish-fulfillment scenarios for geeky teenage boys. They're funny without shedding any additional light on the psychology that drives certain individuals to want to don masks and costumes and fight crime. 

Once Dave becomes Kick-Ass and gets thoroughly thrashed for his trouble, Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), winsome unrequited objection of his affections, finally takes notice of him. (Of course, it's because she thinks he's gay because of a rumor, but still.) Christopher Mintz-Plasse generates laughs with his body language and delivery of dialogue as Chris D'Amico, who takes on the persona of superhero Red Mist. He's the son of gangster Frank D'Amico (the ever delightfully villainous Mark Strong) and wants to prove himself. 

That being said, and despite its flaccid middle section, KICK ASS makes up for most of its sins with two especially stunning sequences that frequently moved the opening night audience at the Paramount Theatre (packed to capacity and turning people away) to cheers and applause. Imagine every type of bad behavior that children should never even watch, and chances are they are acted out in high fashion and style sometime during the movie.

Director Matthew Vaughn was on hand along with members of the cast and comic creators Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. Though recent "secret" public screenings have been held, Vaughn said the film was only locked one week ago. KICK ASS opens in wide release in two weeks.

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