Sorry for the late update; I’ve been having a lot of trouble accessing the site to make updates. Also sorry about how by-the-numbers the first part of the recap was. I’ll try to make this week’s more interesting.
So the story so far: average high school kid Dave Lizewski, frustrated by rampant crime and apathy among the citizens of New York, decides to become a costumed superhero named Kick Ass. His first foray nearly kills him, but his second is recorded on a cell phone and goes viral on-line. Unfortunately, it draws the attention of both Big Daddy and Hit Girl–costumed adventurers pursuing a murderous vendetta on organized crime–and Frank D’Amico, the crime boss whose operations are being hit. D’Amico suspects Kick Ass of being the one targeting him, so he shoots Kick Ass in an alley.
Some thoughts about the movie so far: it’s obviously a comedy, but a very dark one (like the scene where Frank’s goons microwave a Russian drug dealer to get the truth about the guy targeting their operations). And it’s got a very tricky feel, because you want to like to main character. He sort of wants to do the right thing, but he’s in over his head, just like any of us would be. He’s really ineffectual and not too bright, and not only is he pretending to be a super-hero, he’s also got another secret identity as Gay Dave, who gets to hang out with hottie Katie Deauxma and secretly perv on her while pretending to be her buddy.
So it turns our that Frank D’Amico didn’t shoot Kick Ass; he shot a professional Kick Ass impersonator hired to work at a kid’s birthday party. Way to ruin a kid’s birthday, Frank. He’s so upset that he starts doing some coke right on his desk at home, which is when his son Chris comes in and says he can help his dad take down Kick Ass. He just needs a few things.
And of course, the ironic thing about this is that Dave has basically decided to retire. It’s not as if he ever actually did much in the first place. But next thing you know, there are news reports of a new hero named Red Mist (who is Chris is disguise) taking down a drug dealer named Tony Romita (in a shout-out to Kick Ass artist John Romita Jr.). Dave, Katie and friends watch the news report on the TV in the comic book store, and in a nice bit of subtlety, we see a blurry Chris in the background, clearly enjoying the news coverage. Katie thinks that Red Mist is even cuter than Kick Ass, stirring Dave’s jealousy.
So when Kick Ass gets a message to meet the new hero, he decides to show up and check out the competition.
Although it’s tempting to dismiss the movie as a rather mindless parody, a closer look shows a lot of thought put into the details. I don’t know whether this originates from the comic or is new to the movie, but just for instance: of the five costumed heroes we see on-screen (including the idiot who kills himself in the opening scene), the two that actually show hair as part of their costumes use wigs to disguise the actual color and length. Big Daddy adds fake mustache bits to extend his facial hair into a different style. And everybody except Kick Ass makes some sort of attempt to disguise their speech (Hit Girl is more authoritative and foul-mouthed in costume than out of costume with Daddy, Big Daddy does a ridiculous Adam West impersonation, and native New Yorker Chris adopts a bad California surfer accent as Red Mist).
And there’s a lot of conflicting stuff going on with Red Mist. As a comic book fan, he thinks Kick Ass is awesome and clearly digs the opportunity to have his own chance to be a costumed do-gooder, especially when he can get his dad to agree to buy him a customized, tricked-out “Mist-mobile.” And as a lonely kid with no friends, he seems to enjoy the opportunity to ride around with Kick Ass head-bop to his stereo system. But as his father’s son, he also seems to have no problem leading Kick Ass into a trap by taking him to Frank’s Lumber with its man-sized microwave. Oh, which is on fire, by the way.
Red Mist runs frantically into the building, and Kick Ass, shamed by the other hero’s bravery and selflessness (he thinks), runs in after him, only to discover that the place is full of dead goons. Red Mist grabs a scorched teddy bear off a shelf, then he and Kick Ass escape into the night.
Later, Chris confronts his father with the teddy bear, which turns out to be a nanny-cam Frank used to spy on Chris’s nanny years before (and in a nice little detail, the previous files in the bear’s memory are all of her in a towel, getting ready to shower). The nanny-cam footage shows Frank’s men getting systematically destroyed by a methodical Big Daddy. His attack is so efficient and by-the-numbers that it plays out more like watching someone play a video-game than an actual battle, with lots of computer-generated blood spatter.
This is proof that Kick Ass is not responsible for killing Frank’s men, but Dave is not totally off the hook. Chris also mentions that Kick Ass knows other heroes in town, so maybe he can lead them to this mysterious avenger.
Meanwhile, Dave has decided to retire for good. Between his encounter with Hit Girl and the warehouse full of bodies, shit is entirely too real. But before he gives up the costume, he uses it to reveal his identity to Katie, and tell her he’s not gay. She’s upset at first, but moments later, they’re kissing as he slides into second base.
And it turns out post-Kick Ass life is pretty good, as he and Katie screw like bunnies in an alley behind the comic book store. But then Dave, checking Kick Ass’s Myspace page, finds a lot of frantic messages from Red Mist, wanting to meet. So he decides to put the costume on one last time.
Red Mist tells him the gang that owned the lumber warehouse thinks the two of them did the job. They are targeted for death, but maybe that other hero Kick Ass mentioned once can get them out of it. So Kick Ass sends a coded message to Big Daddy (who has been preparing a final assault on D’Amico and has ordered an impressive secret weapon for the job) and is told to come to a safe house. When Kick Ass arrives with Red Mist in tow, Big Daddy is suspicious, but lets them in. Which is when Red Mist pulls out a pistol and shoots Hit Girl with it.
Treachery! Before either Kick Ass or Big Daddy can react, D’Amico’s goons burst in through the door and subdue them. Chris tries to tell the men that Kick Ass is cool and should be let go, but they don’t listen. Oh, and D’Amico’s personal bodyguard also decides to snag a bazooka from the wall.
Chris complains to Frank and is told that he has to make a public example out of somebody, and nobody knows who Big Daddy is. So Kick Ass must die; nothing personal. Frank’s men have set up a website that purports to have an urgent announcement from Kick Ass. Media speculation is that he will announce his retirement. But instead, we watch as D’Amico’s goons torture the two heroes and get ready to kill them.
And then the shooting starts. Hit Girl has survived Red Mist’s murder attempt thanks to the bullet-proof vest we saw her testing earlier and makes short work of D’Amico’s goons.
But they manage to set Big Daddy on fire first. There’s this weird bit where Big Daddy calls out tactical orders to Hit Girl in this strange high-pitched voice as he’s burning. Part of me wants to say that this is another thoughtful detail based on actual research (gunfire in a building causing temporary hearing loss, and high-pitched sounds being more penetrating, Big Daddy pitches his voice high to be understood), but without explanation, it just registers as another odd Nicolas Cage acting choice.
Kick Ass is saved, but Big Daddy succumbs to the fire. Dave tries to convince Hit Girl to give up the vendetta and go to the police for help, but she refuses and uses Dave debt to her for saving his life (twice) to get him to help assault D’Amico’s penthouse. Dave doesn’t really want to, until he finds the secret weapon (which is still secret).
And now we get to the big action climax, which is cool in a very choreographed way, but… The thing about this movie is, it’s about the fact that real people can’t be super-heroes. They’re slow, they’re vulnerable, they make bad choices. We’ve seen Kick Ass in action five times now, and the only thing he has really accomplished in all that time was save one guy from a group of thugs. Not only did that guy look like a scumbag himself, but the only reason Kick Ass won was because the bad guys decided to leave him alone when he proved too stupid to quit. Red Mist’s one accomplishment as a hero was to call in a tip to the police about one of his father’s lower level dealers. Big Daddy has actually seemed to know what he was doing, but as a former cop, he’s expected to be tough and trained. And even he died.
But then there’s Hit Girl, who is clearly a fantasy figure in this world of all-too-fallible people. She’s an 11-year-old girl who kills something like twenty guys onscreen, both with pistols and hand-to-hand, while remaining mostly unscathed herself. Dave needs this kind of magical figure on his side to survive the fight, but her superheroic nature kind of undercuts the rest of the movie to me. Luckily, Chloe Grace-Moretz’s performance is so riveting that it more than compensates.
Unfortunately, even Hit Girl can run out of ammo and be outflanked. Things are looking pretty bad for her when D’Amico’s bodyguard pulls out the bazooka he just took from their safehouse. But then comes Dave to the rescue, with Big Daddy’s secret weapon.
Yes, a jetpack with Gatling guns; here at the end, even Dave gets to be comic-booky. Dave kills the last of the goons, then he and Hit Girl confront Frank and Chris. Hit Girl fights karate expert Frank while Dave and Chris fight clumsily with sticks and nunchuks in Frank’s dojo and knock each other out. Hit Girl is unable to win this final boss fight, however, and is at Frank’s mercy, about to be shot in the head, when Dave appears with the bazooka.
So that’s it for Frank. Chris comes to and runs into his father’s office just in time to see Dave and Hit Girl flying away together.
We get a standard sort of happy ending, with Dave and Hit Girl becoming friends, and Dave going back to his normal life with Katie. But Chris wants revenge, and has decided that it’s cooler to be a villain than a hero anyway.
So get ready for the sequel coming out later this year.
Overall, I’m kind of torn on the film. There’s some smart writing here, and a lot of cool stuff subtly buried in the details. Director Matthew Vaughn brings lots of style to the production. I love some of the performances. But I have trouble sometimes with stories this dark and cynical. Ultimately, they leave a bad taste in my mouth that makes it hard for me to recommend them whole-heartedly.