Thursday, 13 May 2010
The superhero genre has always baffled me; tirelessly risking your own personal welfare for the good of all mankind is as appealing as shoving Pineapples down the urethra. Outcasts once weak and vulnerable gaining the strength to fight back and avenge their pasts, which are often too tragic for even a Shakespeare play, does make sense until they have achieved this goal and decide to carry on wearing the spandex for the greater good of a society that shunned them; which on the scale of asking for trouble is right up there with walking the streets of Whitechappel on a foggy night while dressed as a prostitute. There's also the fact that the writers of such lore have a notion of mutation that would make the survivors of Chernobyl shake their tumorous heads in disgust.
Iron Man the original subverted this because its protagonist Tony Stark was a charismatic Billionaire genius, simply atoning for his lifetime of profiteering from the misery of war. But Stark was still an arsehole as he was never the underdog to begin with and certainly wasn't once he invented his power armour suit made of pure death. The whole idea of Tony Stark is that you root for him out of admiration of his 100% unfiltered coolness. I'm certain when I go to see Iron Man 2 I will once again emerge more pleased than the male patrons of the cinema that gave out free blow jobs with every film.
Until then; Kick-ass, a film with cynic levels to rival my own and if there is one thing that I love it’s proving to nerds that no matter what scenario they place themselves into they’re always going to be as proficient in combat as a wet tissue is at putting out roaring fires. The film concerns Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) a comic obsessed geek who sick of the injustice of the World decides to become a superhero, transforming into the titular Kick-ass. A rather ironic title to give yourself because it implies you are at least capable of doing what it says on the tin, after all that would be like Abu Hamza applying for a job as a masseur.
The plot is a standard superhero affair; Dave in his quest to make a difference is forced to confront some rather brutal antagonists, where the difference lies however is realism – Mark Strong excels as Frank D’Amico, head of a criminal syndicate that’ll stop at nothing to maintain their stranglehold of the city, including actually putting a bullet into their arch nemesis’ head (though revealed to be a deus ex machina, in this case mistaken identity). But my point still remains that as antagonists they are not afraid of getting their hands covered in blood and actually suppress all dissent without needing the typical drama-queen thespian level of theatrics the majority of supervillians display. Homages are paid to the camp side of the genre, particularly Damon Macready/Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) who is defiantly a walking tribute to Batman’s Adam West days, Dave’s opening scenes are obviously based on Spiderman and Hit-Girl’s attire is something you would find lurking at a cosplay convention – probably stretched over a 40 year old virgin’s voluminous body frame.
As always Christopher Mintz Plasse is the highlight, brilliantly playing dual roles – one as Chris D’Amico (Frank’s son) who is sarcastic, spoilt and has the charisma of Gordon Brown. The other role he plays is as Red Mist, a fake superhero who in essence has the same personality as his alter-ego with an added Machiavellian element; undoubtedly the best scene in the entire movie is when the two heroes meet and cruise around town in the Mistmobile. If I have to be honest, and I do, Plasse plays almost exactly the same character he does in Superbad, well towards the end of Superbad when he is in the company of the renegade police officers drunk off his tits. And I think I’m making good use of the ‘super’ prefix in this review.
Akin to an ADD suffering jack of all trades the film isn't sure exactly what it wants to be. One moment it pulls us down the bottomless pit of despair as Kick-ass and Big Daddy are savagely beaten with no hope of survival before transforming into an absurdly surreal moment in which the ten year old Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) infiltrates the facility with all the subtlety of a PS1 action game character. Expecting us to feel tension at that particular moment is like expecting James Bond to choose a secretary based on their typing and filing skills. It’s billed as a dark comedy and I must say it exceeds on both counts, because the style of humor is generally scathing and cynical it works well on its own and as cathartic relief during the darker scenes such as the aforementioned bloody beat down of two vital characters. A lot of the best lines go to Hit-Girl such as her retort to our inept hero when he asks how to contact her: “You just contact the mayor's office. He has a special signal he shines in the sky; it's in the shape of a giant cock.” Dave’s friends Todd (Evan Peters) and Marty (Clark Duke) playing the generic teenage types you expect, have some decent lines as well including the whole “I solemnly vow to save myself for her” exchange.
What’s also notable is the most unpleasant onscreen adult-child relationship since Lolita, courtesy of Damon and Mindy Macready. This was the strongest aspect of the plot – Damon manipulating his ten year old daughter into helping his quest to avenge their tragic past was certainly moving, and the duo’s uncompromising conflict resolution which basically is the equivalent of hunting an army of bears armed only with a trident, was powerful even if it was handled carelessly like transporting Plutonium in a shopping cart. And yes there are copious levels of blood spilt, especially by these deux – a couple of standouts scenes come to mind; one where Big Daddy mercilessly slaughters a group of thugs occupying a warehouse to the ominous tones of ‘In the House - In a Heartbeat’. In t’other scene Hit-Girl murders a mobster in a car crusher after interrogation – prompting the words “Fatality” to protrude my lips. Wet blankets across the land have called Kick-ass out for displaying more violence than an inner-city street gang, but who honestly wanted their puritanical opinions – and besides the movie is like SpongeBob SquarePants in comparison to Mark Millar’s original comicbook.
However unlike God (see -Joacim Cans) the plot is not without flaw. For starters I disliked how quickly Dave’s superhero identity was accepted by the public, never once was he heckled in the streets which in real life is as inevitable as fucking Azathoth having trouble eating spaghetti – oh but wait Kick-ass has his own MySpace page, the modern equivalent of the Number of the Beast from the Book of Revelation. The screenplay writers Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn seem to have this view of the entire audience being American and as such can only understand pop culture references, hence the vital role Youtube and MySpace play. The relationship between the protagonist and love interest Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca) starts off as a parody, since superhero lore dictates that an avenging one must long for a girl he deems ‘unobtainable’ and thus places on a pedestal; however Dave gets his girl the twist being that she believes him to be gay and seeks a gay bestfriend. A well played move, unfortunately Goldman and Vaughn had other plans – developing the relationship into a romantic one as Katie apparently felt the deception was ‘cute’ and not grounds for a sexual harassment case; somewhat detrimental to the realism, like placing Hitler in Eastenders.
Naturally at the conclusion the general cynical feel is locked in a safe, chained up and stored far beneath the abysmal sea in the lost city of R'lyeh. The whole concept of an average person trying to make a difference seems a bit lost when the supposed underdog has a motherfucking jet pack with Miniguns attached; the battle becomes as fair as having Poseidon on your side in a water fight.
In conclusion Kick-ass is a very enjoyable film. In this era of "dark/gritty" superheroes Kick-ass is a breath of fresh air because it captures the defeatist attitude of modern life. Lets be honest here The Dark Knight would have been vastly improved if Batman for all his efforts had been awarded speeding tickets or a fine for disorderly conduct. This metaphorical "fresh breath" in the genre is occasionally marred by Halitosis, plot points that I previously pointed out that detract from the experience but not enough to actually ruin the movie. It's a shame that the film didn't suck arse through a straw because in the weeks leading up to the film's release I anticipated just that scenario and begun working on puns using its title, Q.E.D. "The Iron Criterion kicks 'Kick-ass' in the ass", etc. On the flip side at least for once I am pleasantly surprised, probably a feeling similar to going to a Catholic School and not being molested
Oh yes and a quick word regarding the ‘controversy’ surrounding the character of Hit Girl – I honestly feel that her overly liberal use of violence and swearing added another dimension to the character, symbolizing a loss of childhood innocence as a result of the father depriving her of a normal childhood in order to further his twisted crusade. And anyone who foolish believes children are not capable of that should live on a typical British estate and try to say the same after seeing all the burnt-out cars and grandparents who in their late twenties. Innocent my left testicle, a large percentage of today’s ‘yoof’ are as innocent as OJ Simpson.