The Addictive, Audacious Kick-Ass: A Spoiler-Free First Look

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I believe it was Herzog who said that we are a culture starved for new images. I’d go even further, and say that what we’re really grasping for are new experiences. Something that skews against the routine, that mashes together familiar elements into something wholly fresh and unexpected.

Not to wax poetic here, but there’s a moment in Kick-Ass – in the lobby of a Manhattan high-rise – where I sat back with a dumb smile on my face (I actually smiled through pretty much the entire film), marveling at the creativity on display in a scene that was unprecedented in my personal moviegoing experience. I had never, ever encountered a scene like this before, playing out in this fashion, with this sort of maniacal glee. And as far as I’m concerned, that takes some serious talent, to create something entirely new.

Now Kick-Ass will never make the list of the top 100 films ever made. But what it does have is this: Originality to spare – in the characters, the scenes, the themes, the fight choreography and the giddy buildup to what must be a half-dozen climactic plateaus. I pretty much fell in love with this movie, and you can tell from the very first sequence that it was made by someone with such vision and conviction that he was willing to risk offending one corner of the marketplace so that he could send those like me rolling in the aisles with laughter. This isn’t a film-by-focus-group. Thank God. (More at Techland: March Madness, Nerd Style)

I know that we’ve written a whole lot about the Kick-Ass red band trailers, about Mark Millar’s creativity, and about clips like this one below, which point to a loud, offensive, violent, top-heavy thriller. And I am proud to report that it looks and feels pretty much as you’d expect, from all the graphic marketing materials.

We’ll be writing plenty more about the movie, in the buildup to its April 16 release; For now, I’ve scratched out the top 7 (spoiler-free) sentiments that I scribbled on my notepad while in the midtown Manhattan screening last Friday (and no, I haven’t really read the comics, so this is just from the perspective of one excited film dude sitting down with his pad of paper):

1. Kick-Ass: The working-class-viral superhero.

What I love about Kick-Ass is that he is ALL substance, and absolutely no style. He doesn’t have a bank account like Batman, doesn’t have a revenge fantasy a la Spider-Man; the kid has a couple sticks for weapons and a wetsuit for a disguise, and sets out to save the day. That’s it. He doesn’t stand a chance, and director Matthew Vaughn plays fair with that ground rule. What Kick-Ass does have is a whole lot of heart, and the ability to captivate the public imagination. In the Internet age, plenty of has-beens have proven that you can be an entertainment icon without ever going through the official channels, and Kick-Ass might be the first movie superhero who attains his status not through the prerequisite accomplishments, but solely through his gusto, and the viral videos that galvanize a society desperate for hope. (More at Techland: The All-Time Worst Live-Action Cartoon Adaptations)

2. Hit-Girl: So, so, so offensive.

And perfectly suited for her role. Young Chloe Moretz takes a bullet in the clip above and keeps on giggling. She just wants to be daddy’s little girl, and she’s able to channel that into jokes, good grades, as well as knife fights that sever the jugular. Here’s a shorty superhero that is able to use her size, speed, and sweetness to her advantage.

3. Big Daddy: Off his rocker, in a good way.

Daddy, by the way, is an outright lunatic. He sits down to hot cocoa with his daughter – in a room filled with assault rifles and bazookas. He paints cartoon characters of his next victims, as a way of getting the young one jazzed up for the impending bloodspree. And every time he dons his outfit – which looks curiously like Batman’s – Nicolas Cage starts doing his very best Adam West impression. Or maybe it’s William Shatner. Either way, he’s channeling something seriously wacky, clearly having the time of his life.

4. Red Mist: One posh poser.

If Kick-Ass is all substance and no style, then Red Mist is the perfect nemesis: All style, zero substance. He has the money to look – and drive – the part, but he’s really just a frail little geek who’s desperate to get his dad’s attention. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays the part perfectly, as a twitchy kid who know’s he’s sort of loser, but desperately tries to pump up his stomach and add some savvy to his swagger in a bid to prove that he’s got some moxie buried beneath the surface.

5. The mindblowing fight choreography

Whether we’re talking fist fights, knife duels or full-blown shoot-outs, the action choreography here is really quite impressive. I think one of the great weaknesses of most action films is that they switch into chaotic handheld blurriness whenever things heat up. We’re not meant to really follow the events, so much as bask in the intensity of it all. Sort of like last weekend’s Green Zone. But here, for every single person punched, knifed or blown away, I knew precisely what was going on. Hit-Girl’s bloody sprint down that high-rise corridor (already widely seen in Kick-Ass’s previews), reloading in mid-air as she goes, is really a work of art.

That said, many of these action sequences are bloody – very bloody. And I can see how this aspect of Kick-Ass could perhaps turn some people off to the film. We have mafia-style finger-breaking here, as well as heads getting blown off and bodies set ablaze. But for those who can ride it out, all this violence is used deliberately to create some very realistic stakes and consequences. The one spoiler I’ll reveal is that the first time Kick-Ass dons his outfit and sets out to fight crime, he gets knifed in the gut. That goes a long way towards setting the tone for the film; yes, we’re going to have plenty of laughs, but these are real amateur heroes going up against real bad guys. This isn’t G-rated kid’s play, and I, for one, am quite happy with the fact that there’s something on the line when our hero goes up against his arch-nemesis. (More at Techland: The All-Time Hottest Witches)

6. The outer-borough superheroes

This might be a little inside-baseball, but as a New Yorker, I really loved the fun that Vaughn had here with contrasting Manhattan crimes with these Brooklyn and Queens would-be heroes. Kick-Ass almost goes out of its way to constantly set its amateurs against the backdrop of Manhattan, continually showing the disconnect between the high-powered Manhattan thugs and our scrappy sleuths, standing on their Brooklyn roofs. As someone who lives in this city, who increasingly feels as if Manhattan is a playground for the rich and that Brooklyn is home to the real people with normal middle-class jobs, I love how Kick-Ass plays up the disconnect carved by the East River. And in a rousing finale, it also gives our superheroes one moment to bask in the glow of a Manhattan sunrise, finally living every hero’s dream of standing tall and proud amid the skyscrapers of Gotham.

7. The most believable heavy petting scene you’ll ever see

I’ll keep this one short: During one scene in the film, the good guy finally gets the girl, and as he awkwardly leans in for the kiss, his hands lunge for the breasts. It’s awkward, rigid, and oh so honest.

How about you guys? Excited for Kick-Ass? What more do you want to know about this most unlikely superhero thriller? We’ve got the access – you tell us what you want to know…

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