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Movie Review: Kick-Ass

BY MARISA WAY | APRIL 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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** 1/2 out of *****

Like many of the characters contained in its 117 minutes, the movie Kick-Ass has an identity crisis.

Is it a comedy reminiscent of Superbad? Is it a graphic-novel-turned-movie similar to Watchmen or Sin City? What is the target audience? These questions (among many others) are raised over the course of the film.

For those who enjoy movies with graphic violence — as well as films with colorful language and innuendoes — Kick-Ass is the perfect marriage of cringe-worthy audio and visuals.

It opens with the introduction of the main character, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson). He is a self-described “regular guy” whose main pastimes include attending high school, watching TV, and “being invisible to girls.” Growing up in New York City, Dave and his equally average friends have all been mugged more than once. Mild-mannered Dave reaches the breaking point, however, when one bystander watches from an apartment window as he and his friend are robbed.

This is when the movie misfires in its attempts to have a moral. Dave, who is average in his abilities, is frustrated by other peoples’ indifference to the misdeeds that are going on around them. He decides to decorate a green wetsuit, mask his face, and call himself “Kick-Ass.” What is Dave’s first task as a self-proclaimed superhero? Getting his own ass kicked. Brutally. Several times.

Cue the beginning of the movie’s identity crisis. Kick-Ass hovers between being a comedy about awkward adolescence and a warped story about people taking matters of justice into their own hands. Dave’s flailing about as a self-described “stupid dick in a wetsuit” maintains a lighthearted tone throughout the story.

However, dressed as his alter-ego, Dave (a.k.a. Kick-Ass) is introduced to a world of murder, violence, and drug dealing.

Kick-Ass meets fellow average-citizen-turned-superhero Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and his young daughter, Mindy (Chloë Grace Moretz). He only knows these two characters by their superhero names: Big Daddy and Hit Girl. This duo is first introduced to us when they take down an apartment full of bad guys in a storm of high-tech weapons, blood, and kung-fu moves.

This is what caused some confusion: Is the audience supposed to laugh at these moments of graphic violence, just because they involve an 11-year-old with a grownup vocabulary?

The subplot of Damon and Mindy adds the dark, graphic-novel quality to the film. While some audience members laughed the whole way through (from sex jokes to watching a man explode in a giant microwave), others started laughing, then trailed off. Some unspoken question marks hung in the air of the theater.

Perhaps the most disturbing character in Kick-Ass is Mindy. Although she probably has yet to graduate from middle school, she mows down hit men like nobody’s business. Her reactions throughout the film — whether in response to death, or getting pummeled by a coke dealer — are uncomfortably cool.

The movie wasn’t terrible, just misguided. For the right person, Kick-Ass will be the perfect violent sundae topped with a heaping scoop of obscenities. Call this critic old-fashioned, but I prefer my graphic violence and comedy served separately.

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