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Kick-Ass (Blu-ray Review)

27 Aug, 2010 By: John Latchem

Box Office $48.1 million
$29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray
Rated ‘R’ for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use — some involving children.
Stars Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Mark Strong, Chloë Grace Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Clark Duke.

There’s a reason people don’t dress up in costumes to fight crime in real life. It’s a bit insane and will probably get you killed.

The idea was explored to a great degree in the graphic novel Watchmen and its so-so movie adaptation last year, though its alternate-universe setting was more focused on the big-picture effect of costumed vigilantes.

Kick-Ass aims a little lower to focus on a bored teenager named Dave (Aaron Johnson) who decides the best way he can make a difference is to dress up in a home-made costume and take to the streets to fight crime. In his first effort, he takes on a couple of petty thugs and manages to get stabbed and run over by a car.

His injuries bring him to the attention of the pretty girl in school (Lyndsy Fonseca), who thinks he’s gay. But the attention is enough to inspire him to return to action, even though he is woefully unprepared for the true level of criminal viciousness on the streets.

When his exploits go public, he finds himself drawn into a blood feud between a gangster (Mark Strong) and another pair of costumed vigilantes, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage doing a hilarious Adam West riff) and Hit Girl, played with relish by Chloë Grace Moretz as a foul-mouthed 11-year-old assassin.

Director Matthew Vaughn manages to find the right balance between the over-the-top nature of the material and the life-and-death stakes offered by the plot. It helps that Vaughn has selected his music perfectly to set a mood that isn’t too serious but isn’t too lighthearted either. It should be wrong to enjoy such wicked subversiveness, but as Hit Girl leaves a Tarantino-esque body count through New York, we can’t help but watch in fascination. In that regard the movie sort of defies description. It has the cheery look and feel of a typical comic-book fantasy such as Spider-Man, but the gritty mentality of a crime drama. You really have to see it to believe it.

The theme of the production, it seems, was to be bold and to be different, as chronicled in a few outstanding behind-the-scenes documentaries by Jon Mefford. This is a film, based on a comic book, that no studio would touch because they feared the moral ambiguity of Hit Girl. When Vaughn financed the movie independently and sought distribution, the same studios ironically said it needed more of her. He took the film to Comic-Con, struck a deal with Lionsgate and set a course for cult-film immortality.

The feature-length (and Blu-ray exclusive) “A New Kind of Superhero: The Making of Kick-Ass” doesn’t pull any punches with regard to showcasing the making of the film. Equally interesting (and much shorter) is “It’s On! The Comic Book Origin of Kick-Ass,” a great featurette about not just the creation of the Kick-Ass comic but a glimpse into the world of writing and drawing comics

Both the DVD and Blu-ray include commentary with Vaughn, but the Blu-ray also includes an “Ass-Kicking Bonus View Mode,” showing Vaughn watching the film as he delivers his commentary with cuts to interviews with the cast.

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