Review: Kick-Ass (2010 movie)

When I was a kid I wondered why there were no real-life superheroes at least of the Batman sort. While Superman or Spider-Man might not be possible in the real world, surely being Batman was simply a matter of a costume, equipment, training, the financial wherewithal, and the will to do it.

I has occurred to me since that an even higher fraction of supervillains make do without any superhuman powers abilities or a notable degree of physical fitness, substituting greed, sneakiness, ill-gotten wealth, and henchpersons. You could assemble a bunch of supervillains at short notice simply by holding a big costume party for politicians and bank executives and then hiding their street clothes. To cite just one example, I have a feeling New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who is by no means without his good points, might be unstable enough to be about one bad doughnut and a costume change from becoming a supervillain. If he runs for president and loses, worry.

The protagonist of Kick-Ass is a high school student with a similar idea (about superheroes, I mean, not Governor Christie), and since his friends ridicule the whole notion when he mentions it in passing, he decides to try it, in secret, on his own. Rather than make a costume he orders a wetsuit (complete with head covering) that looks vaguely superheroesque, adds a couple of extended billy clubs to whack the bad guys with, and gives it a shot.

It doesn’t work very well, but when he gets out of the hospital the young lady he’s had a crush on wants to start spending time with him. Unfortunately it turns out she’s somehow become convinced he’s gay and needs a supporting friend. Well, you can’t have everything, and she does want his help putting on tanning lotion.

In the meantime he keeps trying to be a superhero, though he’s still not much good at it. What he is, however, is brave and determined and truly heroic if not at all super. When his attempt to save a man from rival gang members is captured on a bystander’s cell phone camera and uploaded to YouTube, he becomes an instant hero known as Kickass.

Meanwhile it turns out he’s not the only superhero around. In fact, there’s an incredibly deadly and cheerfully foul-mouthed little girl of about 10 or 12 who’s way, way better at superheroics than he is.

I’m of two minds on this movie. A lot of it is hilarious, and the superhero fight scenes are about as spectacularly over-the-top as you’ve ever seen them. Fool though the hero is, his basic decency and bravery are admirable. But there’s also a horrific body count and some pretty disturbing undercurrents, especially if you stop to think about them.

In some ways it reminds me of some war movies or Westerns full of constant carnage that’s only tolerable if you see the casualties as something like characters in a video game rather than people. Of course, the ones who get mowed down in this film are just as imaginary as the bad guys in a video game, or in another superhero film for that matter, but there’s just a bit too much realism here to go with the over-the-top cartoonish action and comedy.

The trailer: (link http://youtu.be/O5mxBaXHcFw)

A sequel is coming in August: (link http://youtu.be/qc6tL8cd9KQ)

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