I really wanted to love this. It seemed to have everything I hold dear in a certain type of movie; intelligence of the smart, cynical kind, proper superheroes – that is, the flawed Batman kind, not the perfect Superman kind – and an ironic sense of the silliness of the whole genre so that I can justify spending time watching stuff like this. And, for part of the movie, it almost met my expectations.
Almost. The intelligence is evident at the end of the film when the teeny superhero (‘Hitgirl’) is wreaking vengeance upon the baddies (cookie cutter Italian goons.) We have intertextual references a la Tarantino to Morricone, The Matrix, Samurai movies, The Karate Kid (possibly, or I might have imagined that one…) It’s an engaging enough, if unoriginal, way to jazz up an action scene. So, there’s some time and thought given to postmodern, self-conscious, look-at-me writing, and that’s fine. Superhero movies, like pro wrestling, lend themselves to such smart-aleckry. See also the point where Kick-Ass refers to his own voiceover – a bit of postmodern silliness which might have been quite edgy about fifteen years ago. But it would have helped more to pay a tiny bit more attention to the basics in the writing. Causality, for example. Yeah, I know it’s old and boring and hackneyed and it doesn’t happen in real life, but we’re all smark enough to know that movies aren’t real, right? I’d like to see more of a reason for the main character to decide to become a superhero (the Kick-Ass of the title.) I’d like to see some narrative closure about the two guys who hospitalise him at the start, then disappear from the movie. Mostly, and this is becoming my most common complaint about mainstream movies these days, I’d like to see a lot of stuff gone from the movie. The two best–friend characters serve no purpose. The section-of-dubious-correctness in the middle where Kick-Ass pretends to be gay so he can grope the pretty girl for a while needed to go. The whole film feels too unbalanced, and that’s because it has some confusion about who the main character is; sure, it says Kick-Ass on the posters but we spend a sizeable chunk of our time with Big Daddy and HitGirl and, frankly, their story (if not their acting; Nicolas Cage more wooden than ever, it seems) is more interesting than that of the supposed protagonist. Put simply, this movie needed to be half an hour shorter.
I won’t go quite as far as Roger Ebert who finds the film (specifically, the use of a child in scenes containing violence) ‘morally reprehensible’; the failing here is simply that the film aims at pastiche but falls short and ends up with something which just isn’t as clever as it wants to be.