Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Kick-Ass - ***

I think I like the new comic-book adaptation Kick-Ass a lot more when I'm not watching it. It's a movie that grows on you. I walked out of it feeling a little disappointed, and wrote down a list of complaints like, "I didn't like the kid in the lead role," "Feels low-rent," "Disjointed." But after a second viewing and a few weeks to ponder over the experience, I don't really feel too strongly about any one of those comments, and my list of praiseworthy details has maybe doubled since opening night.

While I can't say I loved the movie, the things that I loved about it are those which I recall most easily. Aaron Johnson, the kid in the lead role, really isn't that bad. I think it's just that he is upstaged by just about everyone else in the cast, most notably by Chloe Grace-Moretz as Hit-Girl, the eleven year-old sword-wielding assassin, and Mark Strong as the mob boss and ultimate target of the film's "real-life" superheroes. Strong gives what is probably my favorite performance of the year, with the perfect blend of menace and nonchalance, like when he leaves a brutal interrogation scene and tells his henchmen to kill the guy however they wish because he wants to catch a movie with his kid. In lesser hands it would come off as grim, but Strong somehow makes it laughable. And that's really when the film is at its best, when it can transform something that should be offensive into something entertaining. Hit-Girl and her father, Big Daddy (played superbly by Nicolas Cage), share a number of these scenes, making wholesome family fun out of asking for and receiving a butterfly knife for a birthday gift.

I think the problem I have while watching the film is that not all of it is handled with the grace that these scenes are, and so sometimes it felt like it was going from one extreme to another without giving me time to adjust. At times it goes from real danger to a happy-go-lucky action sequence in the blink of an eye, and that's where it feels disjointed; it shifts its momentum too quickly for everything to register. And that's where the difficulty in adaptation lies. It's easy to pull off a change in tone in a comic series, when there are natural breaks in the narrative and each issue can have its own feel, but a film is meant to be experienced as a whole, and so a story like this can maybe seem like a little too much. But I have to say that for all of it's flaws Kick-Ass still manages to be pretty awesome.

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