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Kick-Ass

Year: 2010
Studio: Universal
Director: Matthew Vaughan
Producer: Matthew Vaughan
Writer: Matthew Vaughan/Jane Goldman/Mark Millar
Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong

I haven't seen a movie that's generated such differing opinions among critics in a while. Most have been positive, and I have to admit I'm on the dissenting side.

Until now, Watchmen was the most visible example of how not to translate a comic book to the screen. I couldn't tell you why it didn't work, I'm not enough of a comic book fan and I can't say what made it so at home in its original media.

But even though I've never read the comic book upon which this film is based, I can tell you exactly what was wrong with the film. The first problem is one that afflicts a lot of adaptations - the source material was long and the scriptwriter had lot to cram in. And just like a lot of the criticism I heard about Watchmen, they tried to stay too reverent of spirit of the property by putting in everything they could possibly fit. The result is a movie whose narrative bulges at the seams, few of the elements developed enough to hold your interest.

The second problem is where it's pitched. Everything about the movie from the premise to the characters felt aimed at kids who love comics. But violence and profanity drapes the core like wrong-coloured tinsel on a Christmas tree.

Chloe Grace Moretz as Hit Girl gets the lion's share of stuff censorship boards the world over will gasp at. Apart from her liberal wielding of weapons and the 'c' words, we see her loving father Big Daddy (Cage) teaching her how to take a bullet by shooting her in the Kevlar-wrapped chest.

The bloodshed and the (though I hesitate to use the word) realism is at odds with the rest of the story, and together with the overstuffed plot, the whole thing comes off as toneless, directionless and all over the place.

It starts with a question that's quite clever in its simplicity, and I can see the appeal that made the comic book so popular. When superheroes are so popular - as a nerdy young comic book lover (Johnson) asks - why hasn't anyone ever got themselves a costume, gone out to fight crime and become one?

When he does so he gets his answer, setting upon two car thieves and promptly getting stabbed, run over and ending up in hospital. But when he's patched up and comes back into the world he has the peculiar ability not to feel pain as fully. That's another aspect I thought the film would explore much more - after all, it's a superhero power like the ones he always read about and liked, and suddenly he has it. Maybe superheroes, after all, can be real.

While he calls himself Kick Ass and becomes an Internet phenomenon, father and daughter team Big Daddy and Hit Girl are gunning for a crime boss who runs the city as vengeance for their dead wife/mother.

As Kick Ass gains popularity and his life is transformed, he somehow catches the attention of the crime kingpin as well (it was all so overcooked I can't even remember how), and he has to team up with Big Daddy and Hit Girl as well as a strange new character on the streets called Red Mist (Mintz-Plasse) to put things right. While the world tries to guess who he is...and he gets the girl...and Big Daddy's former partner (he's an ex cop) tries to bring him back from the brink. Etc.

If you're over 15 it won't appeal to you unless you're a trench coat wearing World of Warcraft tragic who lives in your parents' spare room. The irony is that the ones it will appeal to (kids) aren't equipped to know that the extremes of violence and language of the film are only in fun. A lot of them will only go so they can say the name at the box office without getting into trouble.

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