The Art of Violence: A Review of Kick-Ass

There is an art to violence. Some violence is avant-garde, such as a mugging; out of left field, and fleeting. Some violence is symphonic, such as a war strategy; strategized and bombastic. Some violence is poetic, such as martial arts; a rhythmic flow of movements designed to characterize expression. If art is defined as “human expression,” would not violence be expression through aggression? I believe it is, and Kick-Ass captures poetry-in-motion.

This is what I knew about Kick-Ass going in: it was violent, it was gory, it was absurd, and it was funny. All of these adjectives are understatements. I felt Kick-Ass after I left the theater, and I wanted to feel it again.

To be clear, I consider myself a comic-book fan and I knew little to nothing about Mark Millar’s series, of which the movie is adapted from. What I have found out since seeing it is that both a script for the film and the books themselves were written simultaneously (a trend that I’m sure will continue due to the popularity of the genre), and that the movie is very closely adapted from the books, only diverting in some places to keep the movie a unique experience. Honestly, I’m glad I knew barely anything going in. Kick-Ass is a film that relies heavily on shock value and needless to say, there were times when I was absolutely flabbergasted by what I was seeing. This was largely in part to the show-stealer, Hit-Girl, played by Chloë Moretz.

You may be familiar with that name by now, and the waves she and the film have been making over the past month. Yes, in this film you will witness an eleven year old girl brazenly say “the c word” and proceed to mercilessly and in no small words slaughter a room full of people. People are upset by this. To that I say, “open your eyes to reality.” Without getting on a horse of any kind, I just want to say this movie has a (much deserved) R rating, and the Moretz’s parents agreed to let her act in the film. That is their jurisdiction, no one else’s, and I’m glad they made the right choice. She killed it…pun intended.

Aaron Johnson plays the title character, Kick-Ass. He can pull of the now archetypal role of dweeby high-school alter-ego fairly well. He’s amusing in it, and I could believe him as someone thrown into a world he wasn’t quite prepared for. That said, he falls kind of flat compared to the other characters, but maybe that juxtaposition is the point. Nicholas Cage is better than usual. He’s been catching a lot of flak lately for his less than stellar performances, but I’m going to give this one to him. As Hit-Girl’s father and trainer, he seems very at home in his costume, which is a make or break thing in a role like this. If it didn’t seem like he believed in who he was playing, there’s no way the audience would buy it. Finally, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, widely known as “McLovin,” plays Red Mist. Unfortunately, I feel like it’s going to be very difficult for him to shake “McLovin” from his resume. I can’t say he’s bad at all, and he serves as a great foil to the character of Kick-Ass, but in the end it doesn’t seem like he’s pushing himself.

Kick-Ass was directed by Matthew Vaughn, and very well I might add. In a comic-book way, the movie is very “splash-y”. Bright, crisp, colorful images dominate the film. Your eyes practically soak them up. The soundtrack is brilliant as well. It’s easy to see that the songs were carefully picked, and they heighten the action. The surefire standout is “Banana Splits” by The Dickies. I won’t tell you why, or maybe I already have.

The most important thing about Kick-Ass is that it serves as a deconstruction of our notions of hero and superhero. It raises questions about vigilantism and what the meaning of true heroism is. Do you become a hero by saving a cat? Do you become a hero by dressing up like Batman and setting a quest for revenge? Why do people sit by and let bad things happen? Under its very shiny and perhaps even gaudy exterior, Kick-Ass is a very smart film. It’s like the intelligent friend you have that revels in their twisted sense of humor. You can either laugh with them, or give them a dirty look. Either way, they’re still laughing.

Grade: A-

~ by Alex Stone on April 21, 2010.

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