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At some point or another just about every kid pretends to be a super hero. Back when I was a kid it was not uncommon to purloin an old towel or pillow case from your mother and draw a big red ‘S’ on it in order to play Superman. One of the reasons Batman was considered so cool was basically he was a regular guy albeit super rich but he was a super hero with the benefit of actual super powers. In more recent times non-empowered but highly motivated individuals like ‘The Punisher’ or groups like ‘The Watchmen’ dominated graphic novels and subsequently the movies. Taking this trend in an interesting, novel direction is ‘Kick-Ass’. The film is not the best of the super hero variety but it is a contender for one of the most relatable. The film brings out to the light a fantasy held by most avid fans of comic books; becoming a costumed vigilante. It may sound silly and in many ways it is but there is absolutely permissible to go a little to the silly side when fantasy is at the core of the subject. This movie takes the audience back to what drew us to comics in the first place; fun. So many movies based on graphic novels or comic books feel obligated to hit the audience over the heads with some socially relevant theme that the message overwhelms the medium and the entertainment value gives way to a didactic experience. ‘Kick-Ass’ does retain a modicum of a lesson but for the most part it comes across as a spring break flick intended to provide a few laughs and a touch of excitement. With that goal in mind the movie works far better than most in the genre. For once just put the deep social issues on the back burner and sit back with some friends and a big bowl of popcorn and just have some fun. Just make sure the kids are no were around and you are alright with graphic violence.

The screenplay was written by director Matthew Vaughn and co-author Jane Goldman. Vaughn also direct and co-wrote with Goldman the fantasy flick ‘Stardust’. She is currently wrapping up the script for the next movie in the ‘X-Men franchise, ‘First Class’. Both are also rumored to be working on a sequel to this film. Their script here might seem like a harmless little comic book flick but it turned out that it stirred up more than a little controversy. Much of it has to do with the rather explicit portrayal of violence but even more is the fact that a sizable percentage of it is at the hands of a child; an eleven year old girl. The movie was well deserving of the ‘R’ rating provided by the MPAA with some in the camp that an NC-17 would have been more appropriate. I feel that more restrictive rating is overkill, no pun intended but parents would be wise to heed the constraints of a strong ‘R’. In many ways this film is reminiscent of the movie that began the career of Natalie Portman, ‘Leon’ or as the watered down American version was called ‘The Professional’. In it Portman play a prepubescent girl taken in by a professional killer who proceeds to teach her his trade. One thing about any art form, including cinema; those involved in its creation will push the limits. If you are offended then the way to express it is to not purchase a ticket, DVD or Blu-ray. The violence shown here is extreme but with the exception of the child in the middle of things, nothing that isn’t made worse in the regrettable torture oriented horror flicks. While I cannot condone what is presented here it is a valid expression and works as a parody of the violence depicted in many graphic novels. It is difficult to tell a story about vigilantism while keeping a moral high ground. If ‘Death Wish’ was about an under aged girl instead of an adult male you would wind up with something very close to what you have here.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is the stereotypical teen comic book nerd. He wonders about such strange things such as why no one ever decides to become a superhero. Dave concludes that although he lacks the ‘super’ aspect of the job description he wants to give it a shot. After donning a costume of his own design Dave attempts to foil a pair of thugs. Lamentably he is beaten to within an inch of his life, stabbed and hit by a car not to mention ridiculed for his outfit. After his recovery in the hospital the girl he is infatuated with, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca) is interested but only because she thinks he is gay and was raped by the thugs. One night Dave manages to help someone attacked by a group of toughs which shows up on the Net. Before he knows what is going on he has become an internet sensation, Kick-Ass. He sets up a MySpace page so people can contact him. Katie confides in Dave that a drug dealer is giving her trouble so he decides to intervene. Just as the drug dealer’s henchmen are about to get the best of him Kick-Ass is saved by an underage costumed crusader, Hit-Girl (Chloë Moretz) and her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage). Consistent with the mythology embraced by many comic Kick-Ass’ archenemy is a former friend and hero, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) who ‘turns to the dark side’. The point made by many of the opponents of the film is valid. Hit Girl may not have seen the hormonal side of puberty yet but she racks up a formidable and gruesome body count. The thing is from a technical standpoint the film is well crafted. The pacing is impeccable; the exposition far above the norm for the genre and the acting is excellent. One point being made is the high level of violence prevalent in graphic novels and many movies currently popular.

Posted 06/25/2010

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