Well, it’s finally happened. I’ve become a codger.
(Hmm. Is “codger” quite right? “Crank,” maybe. Or “coot.” Yeah. Coot.)
How else, really, to properly explain my sour-gut reaction to Kick-Ass, the much-ballyhooed “comic-book movie for now `emphasis added`,” as director Vaughn has termed it? Surely, I must be getting old. A movie about a teenage fanboy who throws on a scuba suit, names himself Kick-Ass, and determines to wail on crime sans superpowers, no matter how many times he gets his face mashed in? That ought to be at least somewhat up my alley, right?
If I weren’t such a prig, maybe.
Kick-Ass is Dave Lizewski (British newcomer Johnson, who had me sincerely fooled that he was a Yank until he climbed onstage for a post-screening Q&A at SXSW), a thoroughly middling high-schooler who, by trying to stick up for a stranger while in costume, kinda gets pounded, and inadvertently gets the entire ordeal filmed and thrown onto YouTube, touching off a rabid “real-life-superheroes” craze that draws out not only the like-minded — among them a father-daughter pair of borderline sociopaths (Cage, Moretz) and a mysterious, well-funded loner (Mintz-Plasse) — but also bad-news mob boss Frank D’Amico (Strong).
So, where does the “edgy” part come in?
By now, you may have seen the minor-furor-stirring “red-band” footage of now-13-year-old (then-11-year-old) Moretz — as the film’s precocious, pint-sized Punisher “Hit-Girl”— alternating between a. swiftly and sanguinarily dispatching an impressive volume of assorted lawbreakers/mob staff/extras and b. making unrestrained use of assorted, hard-consonant-toting four- and five-letter words (one of which has snagged particular attention, begins with “c,” and isn’t “coot”) of which most celluloid preteens don’t usually avail themselves. The little scamp, dressed like a miniature Robin-the-Boy-Wonder-meets-Dame-Edna tears through rooms and people like a diminutive dervish, perforating, vivisecting, and generally leaving a soupy mess for the biohazard-cleanup folks. The bit that makes me wince slightly, though, comes near the beginning: The angelic Moretz, having perplexed her pop and partner-in-crimefighting-slash-manslaughter Big Daddy (Cage, enjoying himself here, as always) by making a conventional little-girl birthday request (a puppy, dolls), alleviates his fears by dropping the act and laughing: “I’m just fuckin’ with you, Daddy.”
Look, all this “I’m lame” talk aside, I really don’t get turned off all that easily. Still, I’m not sure if there’s a way you can have a schoolkid drop a line like that that wouldn’t at least mildly weird me out — and if there is, Kick-Ass didn’t opt for it. A fair percentage of the lines (the talented) Ms. Moretz is given to speak sound like they were lifted from Clerks or Casino; many of these seem, in setup and presentation, much more like self-aware, hey-look-a-cussing-fifth-grader punchlines than the casual, organic thoughts of a true foulmouth — which, as a viewer, reminds me that this is a young girl asked to curse a lot for shock value. Not that it’s immoral or anything; it’s just a little awkward (in more ways than one), and doesn’t ring true.
So, yeah. I’m a little too square for Kick-Ass. (I also, by the way, squirmed a bit when a roomful of folks got shot and sword-murdered by “good guys” because one of them was a clingy boyfriend. Just me, I guess.) Ultimately, though, the film — while certainly entertaining (with nice supporting turns by Duke and Rispoli) — felt out-of-balance and a bit excessive. It’s too cartoonish to be gritty, too graphic to be light and fun. Further, going in, I expected — and, for a short while, nearly seemed to be getting — an anti-superhero-flick, one that eschews cliché and attempts subtlety/realism, one in which the everyman doesn’t get the unattainable girl and the villains aren’t larger-than-life stock characters; before too long, though, things get pretty familiar and conventional, and, by the end, Mafiosi are getting wasted via bazooka and tricked-out jetpack.
But hey: You’re young. You might dig it. •
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