Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Kick-Ass" : Morally Reprehensible, or Irresistably Likable?

"Shall I have feelings, or should I pretend to be cool? Will I seem hopelessly square if I find “Kick-Ass” morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point? Let's say you're a big fan of the original comic book, and you think the movie does it justice. You know what? You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in."

So begins Roger Ebert's review of Kick-Ass. Strong words, no doubt about it. Mick LaSalle, film critic for the San Francisco Chronicle, begins his review as follows:

"Kick-Ass" lives up to the promise of its title, but it's better than its title, too. It's not an innocuous comedy. It doesn't talk down to audiences. It brings together several popular strains of contemporary moviemaking and combines them into one big, shameless, audacious, compulsively watchable, irresistibly likable piece of pure entertainment.

We are talking about the same movie, right?

Let me start by saying that there is indeed something reprehensible surrounding this movie, and that is the way it has been promoted as a Judd Apatow-type comedy with young wanna-be superheroes. Whoever goes to see this movie should know two things - this may be the most violent movie of its type since "Kill Bill Vol. 1," and it is not a movie for children below their teen years. Literally nothing in the trailers prepares the viewer for the level of violence in "Kick-Ass" - so if you have young kids who like comic books and think that this movie might be a fun outing, go see something else instead.

Personally, I don't find the movie "morally reprehensible," but Ebert's viewpoint is worth discussing. Frankly, I think he's being disingenuous, particularly given (as others have pointed out before me) his high praise for "Kill Bill." Indeed, there is a difference - Uma Thurman's character is an adult, while the character who no doubt has caused the controversy over "Kick-Ass" is an 11-year old girl, one who just happens to be a foul-mouthed, expert killer. Where I have a problem with Ebert's review is when he says, "you inhabit a world I am so very not interested in." To that, I say bullshit, and would add, be careful, Roger. If you're going to claim the moral high ground, then you'd better be damn sure that you've been consistent with this viewpoint over the course of your career.

But enough of that. What did I think of the movie?

Well, for one thing, it was definitely not anything like I expected. I'd seen the trailers, but I hadn't read any of the reviews, except the part where Ebert called it morally reprehensible (or to be fair, perhaps he was just suggesting that it might be so). There are a lot of scenes in the movie that almost made me jump - and to be honest, they weren't the ones with "Hit Girl." They were the ones with Kick-Ass himself, when he learns in the most painful ways possible that being a superhero is not all it is cracked up to be.

The young actors are all good, but the real star from an acting standpoint is Nicolas Cage. There was a time when Cage was tabbed to play Superman, and I remember thinking at the time how absurd that was. But seeing him in this movie, essentially playing Batman under a different name, made me realize that he is an actor of such rare talent that he can pull off just about anything. Also of note is Mark Strong, who I first remember seeing in the BBC-produced, Kate Beckinsale version of "Emma" (talk about being a universe away!). Strong seems well on his way to becoming a professional villain, having played that role in "Sherlock Holmes," in this movie, and the soon-to-be-released "Robin Hood."

So what do I think? Overall, I liked it. It's a comic book. And it doesn't really break much new ground in that genre; in fact, the relationship between the Cage character and his daughter reminded me a lot of the relationship between Batman and the young (female) Robin in Frank Miller's "The Dark Knight Returns," and that was almost 25 years ago, for crying out loud!

In the end, "Kick-Ass" does many things well, but the studio should be condemned for pretending that it is something that it's not.

1 comment:

le0pard13 said...

I took this in after work last Friday. I very much enjoyed the film, but as you say the studio should be shot for the way this was marketed. They specifically went after a segment (kids below their teen years) with their advertising. This was a hard R movie.

I'm glad to see someone calling out Nic Cage's acting in this. Chloe Moretz is getting a lot of acclaim (and gasps) for this--rightly. But, Cage did everything the role demanded and pulled the audience in. I'd also like to mention the Brit Mark Strong. He's really coming into his own ever since his supporting double in '08 with RocknRolla and Body of Lies. He's also in this year's Robin Hood.

Thanks for this.