Matthew Vaughn´s Kick-Ass takes a can´t-miss premise – why aren´t there any real superheroes out there? – and starts out as a biting comic book satire. But instead of exploiting the full potential of that premise, by the end it becomes the very thing it originally parodied: a hyper superhero action movie; I guess that´s about right, seeing how it´s based on a comic book by Mark Millar (The Ultimates) and John Romita, Jr. (Spider-Man, X-Men).
It´s all good: Kick-Ass works on both levels, thanks to a loving, authentic feel for the genre and fluid direction by Vaughn, who never lets things lag even when the script occasionally bails on him. It´s a real blast, a good-natured but graphically violent and surprisingly complex examination of the roots of the genre and the real-life application of superheroes.
Not that it´s without its problems, chief among them a lead who fails to really grab our sympathy or provide much of a rooting interest. Aaron Johnson plays Dave Lizewski, a geeky high-schooler who is harassed by bullies, ignored by the girl of his dreams, and spends most of his free time masturbating and reading comic books. Dave starts to wonder: why aren´t there any real superheroes out there? You don´t really need any superpowers, just a spandex costume and a desire to do good.
So with some scuba gear and a couple batons, he´s out prowling the streets as Kick-Ass. A knife to the gut doesn´t deter him; it only makes him stronger by severing some nerve endings and dulling his sense of pain. He isn´t very talented or effective, but a YouTube video turns him into an overnight sensation.
Now, the idea behind this works wonderfully, but Lizewski/Kick-Ass himself? Nah, there´s never anything to really pull us into the character, and the film suffers a little with each minute spent on a subplot between Lizewski and the girl he has the hots for (Lyndsy Fonseca).
Thankfully, there are some characters to pull us in: the real, talented superheroes, who are out there stopping crime without the headlines. They´re the Batman-like Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), who are out for revenge against the local drug lord (Mark Strong), whose son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) happens to be a classmate of Lizewski.
And while she´s playing a secondary character, Moretz just walks away with the film. Her Hit Girl is the best thing on display here, funny and charming and outrageously brutal and foul-mouthed: magnetic whenever she´s onscreen. Cage is also fun, but he´s playing it broad, with a thick Southern drawl when he´s out of costume, and the full Adam West Batman when he´s suited up.
Roger Ebert vilified the film for its depiction of graphic violence dished out by and leveled against Hit Girl. What effect will this have on the minds of a young audience? I take the opposite stance. Here´s a film that attempts to show the result of becoming a real-life superhero, the effects of violence; young viewers might hurt themselves emulating a Superman, but few would try if they saw him leap off a building and faceplant into a parked car 50 stories below.
Also opening: Enter the Void (showtimes | IMDb), a “psychedelic melodrama” from director Gaspar Noé (Irreversible). Screening in English/Japanese with Czech subtitles (and given the cast, I’m assuming the majority of the film is in English.)
And: Český mír (Czech Peace, showtimes), a new documentary from Vít Klusák and Filip Remunda, the makers of Czech Dream. Screening with English subtitles at Kino Světozor.
Lastly: Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang (showtimes | IMDb), a sequel to the 2005 family film which stars Ralph Fiennes, Ewan McGregor, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Maggie Smith, Rhys Ifans. Screening in a Czech-dubbed version in Prague.