I remember the moment when I knew I would always love The Big Lebowski, it was was when I suddenly realised I had watched it four times in one week. I didn’t even realise I was doing it, I just kept putting it on, like a White Russian drinking Neanderthal putting… in… shiny… to make… funny.
The same just happened with Kick-Ass.
I often feel a peculiar anxiety watching a film I’ve loved for a second time. Kick-Ass, the only film that has prompted a second review from Devin Faraci (a review I admit prompted this entry), is such a film.
When I first saw it, I was delirious (utterly shameless plug in three…two…one). Matthew Vaughn scooped a film out of my brain and spent 80 million dollars bringing it to life for me, which I thought was very decent of him. I watched it opening night in a full house that killed the audience and I just went berserk for it. Thankfully Kick-Ass is everything I remember it being. There are some cracks, (Vaughn will have to pull out something special for the sequel to convince me Christopher Mintz-Plasse is a credible villain) but the film that I loved is still there, even if that Lost joke suddenly isn’t funny anymore.
I become a child when I watch it. My wife, bless her, has to endure a barrage of “No no this is my favourite bit. No Wait. THIS is my favourite bit! OHMYGODSHESHOTHIMTHROUGHTHECHEEK!!” It’s ridiculous.
The thing is, for a chap like me Kick-Ass is as inspirational a film as any. I’m not inspired to fight crime (please, I outgrew that MONTHS ago) but just to shake myself from apathy. Dave Lizewski is an unremarkable individual who decided to act. To do something. In Watchmen, long before Walter Kovacs makes his final transition into Rorschach he reads about Kitty Genovese a, real life New York woman who was murdered outside her home as her neighbours did nothing. It’s the Bystander Effect and it’s the catalyst that creates and empowers all heroes. In Watchmen, Genovese’ murder and the inaction of her neighbours is just unacceptable to Rorschach and in Kick-Ass allowing a man to be beaten within an inch of his life in front of an audience just isn’t an option for Dave. This is all a bit po faced I know, Kick-Ass is a comedy, but in the real world “What would you do?” Is a question that everyone needs to ask themselves.
The tonal shift in the film has drawn criticism. Devin has of course defended it far better than I will do here, but I will say that on second or third (or forth) viewing it is far more fluid. The clues that this is a bona fide superhero film crop up throughout. When Dave tells the thugs he would rather die than leave, the score changes briefly from Omen by The Prodigy to Flying Home, an amazing original piece of music written for the film. That’s when the film becomes a Superhero movie through and through. By the end of the film, when Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl (who can literally dodge bullets by the way) are flying through New York the film has earned that Superhero Score. Dave began his journey in front of that Diner and completed it in Frank D’Amico’s Penthouse.
The film is chock full of little touches like that, Vaughn made some fantastic decisions bringing Millar’s book to the screen. He made changes that bring the film away from Millar’s original “hero” story and pushes it in the direction of “super”. The best thing he did, however, was to let Nicolas Cage do whatever he wanted.
I’m sure the Big Daddy that ended up on screen was the result of a collaboration between director and actor but when he is burning alive and shrieking at the top of lungs that is all Cage. Cage let loose is the best Cage there is. Hit Girl gets the attention but it’s Darren McCready that steals the film for me. He’s dangerous, angry and with Cage behind him, completely crazy.
Consider the glorious voice he puts on: If the fictional character Batman exists in the Kick-Ass world then Adam West’s Batman exists. That means that while he is massacring criminals he is literally pretending to be Adam West! Lunacy! McCready is absolutely insane, and not in the “Bruce Wayne might be just as crazy as the The Joker”, I mean completely certifiable.
I love this film. Kick-Ass is (still) a marvel. A film that will reference a Ditko Spider-Man without stopping to explain what a Ditko Spider-Man is.
For that, I will always love it.