Kick-Ass has got me to thinking… If I were to assume an alter-ego super-hero persona, what would be my outfit choice? I could go for a classic look, combining army camouflage with a modern aluminium helmet-shoulder-knee pad infused twist, or I could perhaps embrace my feminine side opting for pastel pinks, a silk cape – because capes are cool and silk is soft – and, to conceal my identity a rather fetching red leather mask.
True… that all sounds a little more like Leatherfest getup than super-slick comic book icon, but nonetheless, Kick-Ass has a point. Anyone can, potentially, become a super-hero with the right attitude.
It was around this idea (one vaguely borrowed from Watchmen) that the comic-book visionary, Mark Miller – The Ultimates, Wanted – created the Kick-Ass comic series. The great thing about having creative friends is that the meeting of minds can ignite ideas and produce truly exciting, groundbreaking art. Millar pitched his Kick-Ass idea to Matthew Vaughn who, fresh from the success of 2008s Stardust, lapped up the gritty concept, and set about making the film version of a comic concept filled to the brim with messed up violence.
As audiences become tired of the same old overindulgent, re-hacked, paint-by-numbers, material churned out by the Hollywood studios, now is the time of the independents to step up their game and take control of the potentially huge profits a successful film can create. Ever the opportunist, Vaughn, who made a cool £9 million producing Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – and even more from Snatch – is leading the heard with Kick-Ass. The close-to-the-mark camaraderie proved a little too much to stomach for Hollywood who politely declined the concept at script stage. So Vaughn did the unthinkable and made it himself without the backing of a studio. Brave? Perhaps. Stupid? Perhaps.
Kick-Ass invites us into the world of Dave Lizewsk (Aaron Johnson); an average New York high school kid who, while chatting to his friends in their local comic-book-come-coffee-shop stumbles across an obvious question which will change his mundane life for good. “How come nobody’s ever tried to be superhero?” he asks. Queue heckles from his quick-witted, uber-geek buddies with uninspired retorts like: “nobody in the real world actually has any super powers.” Bruce Wayne did it without powers right? “Yeah but he had all those expensive gadgets that don’t exist.” Undeterred Lizewsk sets out on his quest towards hero-dom – creating a MySpace page, and ordering a green scuba suit online – and before long, Kick-Ass is born. The set up is deliberately cliché, exploiting parallels to comic adaptation predicators, poking particular fun at Rami’s Spiderman franchise.
Alongside Johnson’s Kick-Ass, the film features an array of other super-hero wannabes. Vigilante Father-Daughter duo, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and the one that’s causing all the fuss — Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) — add real Ka-Pow! to this fast-paced tongue-in-cheek crime fighting caper. Cage is back on form after a questionable decade of role choices (National Treasure,Ghost Rider). Sporting a wardrobe designed by Batman’s very own tailor, Cage’s Big Daddy is a nut that has truly cracked. Sounding like Christian Bale possessed by Adam West, his words trickle out with the comic delay of William Shattner’s recording career (I’m a rocket… man).
For a crime fighting maniac with highly questionable morals and revenge on the brain, Cage does well to portray Big Daddy’s unconditional love for his daughter, as he simultaneously teaches her the fine art of mass murder. Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s Red Mist adds that friend/foe sidekick/enemy ingredient into the mix, and offers his own (now reliable) unique, cute and venerable charm to the role.
Pioneering in both style and substance, this slice of American pie is very much a British affair. The adaptation of a Scottish comic-author, with a screenplay penned by two Brits, a British leading actor, and shot predominantly at Elstree Studios (A film called Star Wars was filmed there). It’s hard to believe the Scarface-esq den of Mafioso bad guy, Frank D’Amiso, with glamorous views of New York’s discerning Upper West Side was created in a sleepy suburb of outer London.
For the filmmakers involved, this movie is all about the detail. Like all great Directors, Vaughn has a clear-cut understanding of the importance of flow. The scene transitions are innovative and glossy and the soundtrack binds together any stray jagged edges. The Matrix-slow-mo-style shoot-off scene between Hit Girl and D’Amiso’s heavies is glorious cinematography, effects and gore combined.
While the uptight will cry with horror as the ‘C word’ passes through Hit Girl’s pre-pubescent lips – dressed as a school girl, brandishing a silenced pistol – the rest of us will revel in its twisted absurdity. There’s no sense in penalizing these free-thinking rebels for making killing, decapitation and revenge look very, very cool. Art and literature have been doing it for centuries; and this is art.
Kick-Ass does more to invigorate a comic-book adaption than any of its predecessors.
The back-story is strong, and the strength in the screenplay really shines through. From its opening sequence it’s evidently clear that this is a film with a difference. A film unbounded by the interfering eyes and ears of the studio. A film which pushes the boundaries and creates controversy while being fresh, engaging, witty and cool. And which seeps into our own lives, inspiring all of us to kick some ass.