Dave Lisewski is the traditional high-school ghost. He exists only to his friends, fantasizes about his English teacher, has a crush on a hot girl, hangs out at a comic book store, and so on. Dave starts to wonder out loud why nobody ever tries to be a super hero. So he buys a scuba suit, starts a MySpace account, and begins trying to do it.
Only it goes terribly wrong right out of the gate because he has no power, no training, and no real skills. As Kick-Ass, he usually ends up getting his ass kicked (as Big Daddy loves to point out), and he contemplates quitting numerous times. But it’s the desire to do good that compels him to continue down his chosen path of masked vigilante. He meets some other avengers along the way, and ends up involved in a very personal battle with Frank D’Amico, the father of one of his classmates and criminal mastermind.
I’ve let the movie simmer for a few days now as I contemplated it, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it was an okay, slightly above average, likable film. But the only complaint is that all of the potential is there. It just never quite takes the leap from good to very good.
The thing is, Kick-Ass tries really hard. Kick-Ass tries really, really hard. It’s a movie that blends several different types of genres, but does so at the expense of ever really developing as unique an identity as it craves.
Aaron Johnson is just alright as Lisewski/Kick-Ass, and I think he might have been the largest problem with the film. He has some great lines, and a great character overall, but he doesn’t seem to exude a charisma that makes watching him a necessity. He is completely overshadowed in nearly every scene he is in. Scenes with Nicholas Cage and Chloe Moretz, scenes with his friends Marty and Todd, scenes with Lyndsy Fonseca (but only because of how hot she is). His performance was normal, average, pedestrian, but nothing that really connects to the character (which should’ve been a breeze considering how much potential the character has.)
The supporting cast fares much better. Chloe Moretz is the absolute scene stealer, and she is absolutely fantastic. Not only is she foul-mouthed and hilarious, but she kicks all kinds of ass as a little 11 year-old vengeance prodigy. As Hit Girl, she time and time again bails the adults out of trouble, and does it with a violent streak no one else seems able to muster. Nicholas Cage, as her father Big Daddy, is likewise watchable and good. It’s a great, small role for Cage. His last couple of lines are absolute gold.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse also didn’t do much for me in this. I fear he is forever going to be stigmatized as McLovin even when he isn’t (and he gave a nice little performance in Role Models last year). The crowd I saw the film with was largely comprised of idiot high schoolers, and they all insisted on identifying Mintz-Plasse as McLovin every single time he was on screen (which was awesome!…not.) He seemed lost and confused. His character never clicked, and they rushed his heel turn way too quickly. The crowd never really gets a chance for the ultimate betrayal to sink in because we can see it coming virtually the entire time Red Mist is on screen.
The film is funny, but I found select portions of the dialogue to be just a tad too cutesy. I hate movies where every character is trying so hard to be the funny one. Mainly because it really overshadows the major character’s humor. And I feel like this is precisely what happened to Kick-Ass as a prospective funny character. Everyone kept trying to upstage him. Sometimes, it was fantastic and added a lot of humor to the picture overall and in shared scenes (Hit Girl, Big Daddy), but sometimes it took away from it (Marty and Todd).
And the violence was shockingly tame from what I was expected. It’s still pretty violent, but there weren’t any “Wow!” moments from me in that regard. The action scenes are well-choreographed and god bless them for not going shaky cam, but there just wasn’t any fire within the scenes. They were almost a means to an end.
Overall, Kick-Ass is a decent movie. It’s got some laughs, some stylized violence, and a couple of really strong characters. It’s major flaw is trying to blend too many genres at once, because at the end you are left with a movie that lacks any substance or real strong tone. If you keep your expectations in check, you will enjoy it. It’s never a bad movie, it just could’ve been a much better one.
Score: 6.5/10 (Okay)