Director Matthew Vaughn’s pulse pounding superhero flick Kick Ass is a wild ride – the kind of fiercely edgy and innovative genre pic destined to make comic book geeks froth from the mouth. It is also tirelessly postmodern, regularly drawing attention to the manner with which these sorts of stories are constructed.
The movie exists in a weird oxymoronic hyper reality where real superheroes exist but they don’t; where violence is flippant and comic but savage and brutal; where the rules of the genre are broken and adhered to at the same time.
Vaughn conjures a berserk blend of fantastic caped crusader ethos with grim meat hook reality. This fickle mixture, which jolts the viewer back and forward like a crude old school theme park ride, is something audiences never quite come to terms with.
The opening scene depicts a man dressed in spectacular red superhero garb on the edge of a skyscraper roof; he is presumably about to fly away to rescue a falling baby or a damsel in distress. He jumps, a crowd of onlookers cheering him on from below, then plummets unceremoniously to his death. It’s a good indication early on of Kick Ass’s black sense of humour.
The protagonist is a dweeby and unpopular high school student named Dave, who wonders why in a world full of superhero stories nobody seems to give the crime fighting shtick a red hot go.
Declaring he will walk the walk, Dave orders a ridiculous costume (actually, a wetsuit) and one fateful arv approaches two punks who are breaking into a car. Instead of saving the day our wannabe hero leaves the scene stabbed in the belly, and, while stumbling away, gets bowled over by a car. Doctors at the hospital fit his body with metal plates, which makes Dave more resilient to body blows and thus installs in him his first and only sort-of superpower.
After becoming a Youtube star Dave gets in over his head and a couple of real superheroes come to the rescue. They’re real in the sense they have actual talent – i.e. ridiculously precise aiming and reflexes – rather than superhuman abilities. The film is fully aware that the suit worn by Nicolas Cage’s character, a former disgraced cop intent on bringing down the local Mafioso, looks an awful lot like Batman’s. His 11-year-old daughter is his sidekick.
Kick Ass is a thrilling cocktail, racy and in your face. It’s thrilling partly because the action scenes are outstandingly directed, fused with rush of adrenaline that comes on like gangbusters, a hit of filmic amphetamine right into the bloodstream. Also because of its non PC elements – particularly depictions of a filthy-tongued pre-teen girl in gory SFX scenes – and it’s unreliable grasp of reality, which sends the characters off with beatings and bruises in some occasions and in body bags on others.
Bold, searing use of music makes some scenes Leone-esque and by turn Tarantino-esque. You get the sense QT would have loved this movie, particularly its full throttle blend of action, exploitation and postmodernism. I know I did.
Kick Ass’s Australian theatrical release date: April 8, 2010