Kick-Ass By Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn.
I don’t think if I’ve ever felt more deceived watching a motion picture than I did by the end of Kick-Ass. Which is a shame, because the first half of Kick-Ass is a delightful film. Not a great film, no. But it’s still a good time. We begin with David Lezewski in an almost self-aware teen film that’s so clichéd it’s actually pretty impressive. But it does so to establish the world of Kick-Ass, even if there’s a bit too much narration.
By the half-way point, Kick-Ass feels like Not Another Teen Movie (Mike Bender, Adam Jay Epstein, Andrew Jacobson ,Phil Beauman and Buddy Johnson) with the presence of Kick-Ass being the twist. Whereas Spider-Man (David Koepp) shows us that Peter Parker’s a teenager while being a masked vigilante, Kick-Ass takes place from that teen-genre-half of the dualist world present in all superhero films, rather than zero-ing in on the superhero aspect itself. Which is a relief, for reasons we discover in the second half, as the Kick-Ass character, and that half of the story, is not a pleasant film at all.
Imagine if The Dark Knight (Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan) suddenly decided to become a quirky comedy just as things are getting interesting. Because that’s effectively what’s going on here.
When it started, Kick-Ass was an original genre-twist, because it was about the way society would react to a real superhero. That’s the unique selling point of Kick-Ass, and makes it different from other superhero films that focus so-much on the character to the point of diluting everything else. But no, this is about the other people that aren’t superheroes, including those who’d try to mimic it. But after about an hour, Kick-Ass turns into something so desperate to be a “real” superhero film, so eager to be like the others, that it becomes not just generic, but patronising to anyone who was enjoying the fun originality of what it was.
It’s almost as if director Vaughn only wanted to spend an hour establishing the world and its characters in such detail just so he didn’t have to worry about it later. Because once we get past that, the tone shifts so suddenly that it turns into an impotent impersonator of other comic book adaptations. The grittiness, the darkness and overall tone is completely inconsistent with what’s come before that I felt a victim of the ol’ bait-and-switch. And the worst thing about that is that it makes no sense, because it comes across as being ashamed of itself. The best part of the film, which is a different take on a common genre, is the part it doesn’t like about itself. But when Kick-Ass was doing that, it didn’t come across at all. It felt natural, and confident. And yet, when it pulls the rug under your feet, you can tell. You’re aware of it. And what follows is a gratuitous montage of the most disturbing images possible – Nicolas Cage burning in close-up, for instance. A man being crushed in a car compactor in an unbroken shot. The kind of thing that legendary action director Matthew Vaughn loves. But what I find it totally objectionable is that it wasn’t honest. It wasn’t prepared to be that straight away. Instead, it wanted to make you believe you were watching a completely film before throwing that it and “coming out” as the very thing it was intelligently satirising. Its comedy is cannibalistic, it’s style its self-consuming, and all of that results in on overblown finale that implodes the narrative.
I might not mind if it were a natural transition. But that sudden “kink!” is so tangible, so forced, so mishandled, that it’s – intentionally or otherwise – manipulative to the audience. And I reject it on that basis.