I think I've discovered my super power: I'm ambivalent about superhero movies and television shows, and about comic books in general. I've tried--goodness knows I have. I watched a half dozen episodes of Heroes, which was simultaneously dull and sprawling, which made it nothing more than an enormous bore. I've read a bunch of graphic novels in the last year, including Locke and Key and The Stand, and I've taken in just about all of the films on DVD, from the ridiculous Watchmen to the tolerable subject of this review (Kick Ass is a C+ film).
This story trots out the old geek as superhero cliche. Aaron Johnson's Kick Ass (aka David Lizewski) makes one face throughout the film. He's so milquetoast in this thing that the only time we see any personality in him is when he puts on the mask and mugs for the mirror. Toby McGuire's Peter Parker at least had some depth to him (those, by the way, are the best adaptations in the genre, hands down). Johnson's inability to carry the show or make us care, coupled with the syrup-slow pacing of this thing, almost led me to turn it off. I did turn off Watchmen, only to return a few days later and regret finishing that turd.
Lizewski has the requisite pair of slack-jawed geek friends, one of whom mumbles things like "fucking retard" (why do people drop these r-bombs? totally distasteful) to show us that he's edgy and would be popular if only the rest of his high school classmates would just get to know him.
Nic Cage (Big Daddy) and Chloe Moretz (Hit Girl) are good, and I wish this was more their film. Cage plays the driven single father, hell-bent on avenging his wife's suicide. Hit Girl is the lovable, impossibly deadly scamp that dispatches whole gangs of thugs with her knives and guns and feet. Moretz carries every scene she's in--half for the spectacle of such a pint-sized badass, but also for her comic timing. You'll love it when she says, "I'm just fucking with you daddy!"
Another problem is the villain here (spoiler coming). He takes a bazooka rocket to the gut, which is appropriate for the over-the-top tone of this one, but that's about the only redeemable thing about Mark Strong's turn as Frank D'Amico. He's a drug dealer and a baddie, but he's totally one note and runs around shouting things like, "Playtime's over kid," while he repeatedly punches a ten-year-old girl in the face. I have no problem with the violence--it's the story, after all--but the writing is pretty brutal in spots.
I guess it's me. Fans of this genre will think me weak; they'll wonder if I was bitten by a radioactive wussy spider or they'll go to their greatest trump card: He just doesn't get it.
That's cool. I don't want to get it.
I'm going to look at The Last Exorcism this week. It's about a religious fraud who goes around taking money to perform his fake exorcisms. He's a phony, but he's about to collide with something more sinister than his usual parlor tricks. I like the premise, and I prefer the content. Give me the plausible any time...