(SPOILERS) I owe this film an apology. Back in April/May I believe I gave the film a pretty hard time and maybe a 3.5/5. A 7 out of 10 isn’t that bad, in fact it’s a “good but not great” in my book. But after re-visiting the film on DVD, the film is no less than a modern cinematic marvel of both action and the superhero genre. In case you forgot from the last review, the film’s all about taking the idea of vigilante-ism to it’s logical conclusion. They explore the idea that sure, anyone can be put on a pair of tights and become a superhero without the need for a bug bite or super rich dead parents, but in the end, you’re going to get killed. Tired of his boring life, Dave (Aaron Johnson) sets out to be the next Spider-Man and, you guessed it, gets beaten within an inch of his life. Soon he come into contact with the other superhero duo Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), and quickly gets in over his head with the likes of a dangerous mob head (Mark Strong). I remember saying this before, but I’ll definitely say it again, the cast in the film is spectacular and practically makes the film. Aaron Johnson upholds the believability that helps create the mood for the film and the resulting tension, and Mark Strong is aptly slimy and just as stereotypical as his role would call for. Christopher Mintz-Plasse does a fine job with the screen time he’s given, but the real stars on the second run through were Cage and Moretz. Cage plays up the Adam West persona in an inspiring way, and proves equally hysterical and an intimidating figure when you take into account he takes out 8-10 guys at once sometimes in the film. Hit Girl is the star of the film, dropping the “c word” and “f word” at will and brutally dismembering enemies, it’s an odd delight to witness. Plus, she’s the backbone of some of the film’s awesome action set pieces. The corridor scene toward the end where Hit Girl takes out goon after goon to get to Frank’s office is almost like a ballet full of rip cord assisted suicides and back stabbings. From the cheek-shooting downstairs to the finale with the jetpack (although I wasn’t a fan at first of that particular element) there’s a crap ton of work going into these scenes in the shooting, the framing, the placement, and the different levels of the fights including their own distinct geography. The apartment scene works as both a horrific action piece and a comedic achievement all in one (Dave’s reaction shots are something to witness), the action piece involving Big Daddy is filled with the appropriate testosterone and bone-crushing reality of how bitter his character is, but the real achievement was the rescue scene involving Big Daddy’s death. The film goes from “good” to “wow” once you see the culmination of nightvision FPS shooting, strobe light/gun fire illumination firing, and the final moments of Big Daddy still giving his “sidekick” instructions like “Now switch to Kryp-to-nite!!!” even in his final moments. The film has some beautiful photography, there were times I had trouble believing I was watching a DVD with the crisp detail and the vivid colors of some of the environments and costumes. Like I said, the film is hysterical and often times bone-chillingly violent, definitely not for the younger kids, obviously. The film is paced in a great way, constantly moving us from scene to scene in a quick way that doesn’t ever drag it’s feet from moving between action pieces and the expertly-written dialogue between its characters. There’s a lot of real emotion to these characters, and a lot of care went into making them feel real (even the gleefully violent nature of Hit Girl, a character who’s human nature could have easily been lost with a different script. The ideas and questions Dave is presenting make you wonder yourself, and his resolution at the end feels fitting. Hit Girl and Big Daddy’s relationship feels a tad bit more human than in the comic book, and it captures that spirit better that he’s trained this girl from a young age just to be a killing machine. There’s a lot of psychological stuff behind that, and you get the sense that even she doesn’t fully grip the principle of death even when her own father dies. She’s been brainwashed from a young age, and you completely get that sense in the film, which works astonishingly well. When it comes to comparing the film to the graphic novel, at first I had a lot of problems with how the film changes things up. In the comic we don’t know Red Mist is Frank’s son until the very end and that worked on it’s own level for a huge surprise, but in the film it works in its own way because if it had been played like that the character of Frank would have felt less real and so would have Red Mist. The death of Big Daddy is changed up in the film as well, having him burn to death rather than be killed execution style in the comic. This ends up changing a lot of things by the end of the movie, but both the comic and film have their own qualities. I liked the idea that there’s a big showdown with all the three characters in the comic, but I like how they used it in a different way to create an entirely new action scene that had its own dramatic weight in the film. Plus, the way they re-craft the final action scene in the film was pure awesome, and it builds and builds until we reach the peak of how awesome this movie is. I wasn’t a big fan of the jetpack originally, but I came to accept it and even like it in the film. Within the context of the film, it makes complete sense for them to only be able to escape that heavily fortified building with a jet pack, it’s the same reason they couldn’t leave through the front door after the apartment killing spree. Take into account the film was made at the same time the comic was, and you’ll appreciate what the filmmakers did differently, not despise it like I once did. The film delights in violence, and to a point I accept that and enjoy it along with them. As long as you paint the violence in a tone of humor like this film does, it works. It’s like the difference between America’s Funniest Home Videos and the Discovery Health Channel. I’ll admit there’s a certain limit to violence for me (once it goes too far it goes too far), not that this film does that. That being said, in the final stand off between Hit Girl and Frank Da’Mico, the sight of seeing a grown man beat a little girl still made me a little uncomfortable and it came a little too close to that line. All in all, after re-watching Kick-Ass, my opinion on the film was much lighter. At first it was maybe in my Top Ten, now it’s for sure within my Top 3. The film is incredibly well made for only being made for $30 million, it’s well-paced, well-acted, gloriously violent in some amazing action pieces, and has some unforgettable characters in some unforgettable moments in an unforgettable parody of the superhero genre that works on its own in its own cinematic glory.
5 out of 5